The World Health Organization now lists sedentary lifestyle as the 4th biggest killer annually, which has led many to coin the new phrase, ‘sitting is the new smoking’ used in mainstream media.
Sedentary is defined as sitting for more than 6 hours a day. By those standards I would say the majority of people fall into this category. Studies show that you can’t just go to the gym or do exercise for a portion of the day and think you are immune. If you sit for more than 6 hours in a given day you fall into this health risk category. One or two hours a day of exercise will not erase sitting the rest of the day.Your lymphatic system is driven through muscular contractions; our bodies were meant to be in motion. Those fortunate enough to have jobs that require them to stand, and move more frequently may be less at risk, but us office workers better get moving!
Personally, I came to this realization 5 years ago when I started my first ‘office’ type job that required me to be at a desk for the most part of the day. I had moved from an Operations position in the hospitality industry where I was on my feet pretty much all day, to the Human Resources department where I spent most of my day at a computer. After about 3 months my back hurt, my energy was low and instinctively I knew it was from sitting all day. I hadn’t seen anything about standing desks at this point, but I decided to bring in a coffee table I had at home to put on top of my desk to make it higher so I could stand at it. Click on this link to see the table I am talking about; (www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/10065958/) I think it cost me about $20 at Ikea. My new desk was the perfect height and I was able to stand and do my work! I was so pleased with my thrifty creation.
A few weeks later, I decided to see if these types of desks existed. I found a few online back in 2011, but they were all full desks that rose up and down, and were quite expensive; not the plethora of options we have to choose from today. I decided it was best not to ask my new employer for a fancy expensive desk after just passing probation. To the amusement of my coworkers I stood at my make-shift desk all day long for the remainder of my time with the company. I had so much more energy, my mood improved and my back didn’t hurt anymore. Coworkers commented frequently, as they came into the office laughing at what they thought was a silly thing to do. They often teased me in a joking manner, and it never bothered me one bit, because I was happier.
Luckily, when I changed jobs my new employer was a forward-thinking company that emphasized the health and wellness of their employees, and within a couple weeks I had a Varidesk (www.fitter1.com/varidesk) installed and a swooper stool (http://www.swopper.com/swopper-classic-1/) to sit on if I chose. Again, at first people gave me strange looks and had questions; asking in a bit of an accusatory way, ‘isn’t it tiring to stand all day?’. Two and a half years later, 6 people in our Human Resources department now have standing desks; two of which I remember telling me they thought it was strange to stand all day and they didn’t think they could do it. It just takes a few people to create a change in the office culture.I have to give a shout out to my current employer Rocky Mountain Equipment, for targeting ergonomics as an important issue, and investing in their employee’s health and wellness.
That’s my personal story, but ‘why stand?’ Maybe you aren’t experiencing the negative effects I felt from sitting at a desk all day.
Some of the benefits from standing include:
Change takes time, but in my experience has always been a good thing. If your employer won’t buy you a Varidesk, try the ‘Lack’ coffee table idea, it will only cost you about $20 at Ikea, and could greatly improve the way you feel. Even if you find it hard to stand for the full day. It only takes a couple minutes to move things up and down. Maybe, try standing until just before lunch and let yourself sit for the rest of the day.
If you don’t think standing is something you could do, or there isn’t enough room on those little platforms for all the other paperwork you need while working at the computer moving throughout the day for 1-2 minutes every 20-30 minutes will help. Research shows that microbreaks can increase comfort, improve work performance, and reduce the risks of aches and pains. Movement is free and it feels amazing, the more you move, the more addicted to being in motion you become. When it becomes habit, you start to notice when you haven’t moved for awhile, and you will find yourself getting up without any thought.
Will the future of education be more movement friendly?
One organization trying to change the social norms for future generations is Stand up for Kids. Please check out the link below for more information on this great movement!
It’s that simple, move more! The goals isn’t perfection, it’s progress.