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  • Writer's pictureHeidi Dent

The Perils of Sitting and Standing at Work

Did you know there are perils to sitting all day?

Did you know that sitting for more than 1 hour has been shown to induce biochemical changes in lipoprotein lipase activity (an enzyme involved in fat metabolism) and in glucose metabolism that leads to the deposit of fats in adipose tissue? (Cornell University) Sadly, extensive sitting relates to heart disease risks, obesity, and kidney disease. So with that in mind many people are advocating standing at work, standing desks, and even desks on treadmills, because these use more muscle activity (burns about 20% more calories).

Sitting uses less energy than standing and tends to lead to eating at the desk, snacking at the desk, and lethargy. Sitting helps to stabilize the body, so we sit to perform fine motor tasks like driving, computer work, creating detailed drawings, and math or accounting work. However, for many years ergonomists have recommended that sitting be broken up by periodic standing and moving during the day. Hence the movement for standing instead of sitting at work.

But standing can have problems as well. Standing all day can lead to varicose veins, and lower back problems. So standing in a stationary period for prolonged periods of time is not the answer either.

Motion however, is the answer. Our bodies from time immemorial have been attuned to motion. It is really not until the 20th century and really the 21st century that we got stationery. So with that being said moving your body at periodic times throughout the day will help your body function better. Preferably 1-2 minutes of movement for every 20 to 30 minutes of sitting. A large body of research has shown that frequent micro-breaks improves levels of comfort, work performance, and reduces the risks of musculoskeletal injuries.

So what is the bottom line?

Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward tilting keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 8 minutes AND MOVE, MOVE, MOVE for 2 minutes. The absolute time isn’t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and stand and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. And movement is FREE! Research shows that you don’t need to do vigorous exercise (e.g. jumping jacks) to get the benefits, just walking around is sufficient. So build in a pattern of creating greater movement variety in the workplace (e.g. walk to a printer, water fountain, stand for a meeting, take the stairs, walk around the floor, park a bit further away from the building each day). Try a few standing exercises , touch your toes, swing your arms, lean back and forth on your feet, sit and stand from your chair. Bring weights to work and do a series of bicep curls, tricep extensions, upper cuts, shoulder raises, flys, and jabs. At lunch get a group together for a 1 mile walk. The free ideas to move are endless. Please share your movement ideas with me and I will post them on my facebook account. But until then…please remember to MOVE every 20 minutes. Keep Healthy! Leslie Murphy MD

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