Proponents argue that too much sitting down shaves an average of three years off life expectancy. The so-called ‘sitting epidemic’ is growing in awareness just as the dangers of sun damage did in the previous decades. The health risks associated with too much sitting are weight gain and a large number of other health issues, like heart problems, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dangerous blood clots and some musculo-skeletal conditions – excessive sitting increases the risk of early death.
On the other side of the coin, opponents of the standing desks argue that standing increases torso muscle activity and spinal disc pressure, increases the risk of varicose veins, increases the risk of carotid artery disease and increases the load on the heart. So what is the answer?
The answer, in our opinion, actually lies somewhere in between. Medical professionals and researchers argue that discomfort and fatigue are clearly associated with both prolonged sitting and prolonged standing and, in the ideal world, we would stand for periods of time at a ‘stand up desk’ and, when fatigued, sit for periods of time also, alternating between them to get the best of both worlds.
It is important to check your posture constantly and move around, whether you sit or stand at work, because standing all day can be as bad as prolonged sitting. A 2005 longitudinal study in Denmark found that the incidence of hospitalizations due to varicose veins was higher among those who stand or walk at least 75 percent of their time at work. The risk of hardening of the arteries was dramatically greater as well, according to a 2000 study conducted by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley. Of course, nurses and factory workers have known this for some time, but it seems to be largely forgotten in the stand-up-desk trend.
If you are going to take advantage of the benefits a stand-up desk can offer, authors on this topic recommend you follow your body’s cues. If you begin to feel lethargic or your neck or shoulders bother you, shift to standing. If your legs or feet later begin to ache, elevate one foot or switch to a chair. And do your best to move around a lot more in general — doing shoulder rolls, shaking out your limbs, walking to chat instead of e-mailing, taking the stairs or visiting a water fountain down the hall are all good ways to decrease the risk of health issues.
Watch out for the results of this recent New Zealand study on the benefits of standing at work: Click Here
STAND UP: Unitec osteopathy clinical students Dan Archer_ and Sheehan Robb are leading study into the effect sitting plays in health.
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