Modern life has been developed to put many workers into chairs. This has led to the ever changing pursuit for the perfect ergonomic chair. If you do an internet search, you will find hundreds of chairs professing to be exactly what you need to improve “insert health condition.” Perspective is important; by reframing, you can actually correct most sitting related health condition. The human body was not made to be seated. Instead of finding the perfect chair the answer may be found in sitting less.
This might be described as ‘paleo-working’; finding ways to return to a normal body position. Walking, standing, squatting and lying – those are the natural physiological positions for the body. Sitting in a chair does not even come into the equation. Is sitting making a difference to our collective health?
Connections have been established between the amount of time seated and many chronic health concerns:
- high blood pressure and heart disease
- metabolic syndrome and diabetes
- kidney disease
- colorectal cancer
- shortened life span
This list is pretty intangible; on a day to day basis, you don’t notice these things creeping up on you. You do notice the effects of sitting and you may not even realize it. Let me outline some notable daily health effects by way of example. Recently, we installed an Anthrodesk convertible desk (allows for standing or sitting) at our front desk for the clinic administrative lead to use. This a picture of her day; she starts at 7:30 am and works until 4:00 pm, five days a week. She is busy performing her duties which largely tie her to a computer. Although she gets away from her desk as much as possible, those opportunities amount to only a small portion of her day.
Her convertible work station has been in place for only a couple of weeks and she is so happy with the new ergonomic options it has created. The desk gives her flexibility; she can raise or lower the desk in under a minute. This means she can stretch while working. She is not getting up and down throughout the day as much. She reports less back and neck pain during her work day. The most notable comment though is an improvement in her sleep. She attributes this to decreased nighttime pain resulting in more restful nights. This also results in improved mood and energy for her.
Couple these experiential results with the above research about the long-term health effects of sitting, makes using a standing or convertible desk a justifiable (even necessary) change that you could easily implement to improve your health and happiness today and in the future. Small changes can make a big difference.
Chronic disease and sitting time in middle-aged Australian males: findings from the 45 and Up Study. George ES et. al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2013 10:20
Too much sitting – A health hazard. Dunstan, David W. et al. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 97:3 , 368 – 376
Sedentariness at Work: How Much Do We Really Sit? McCrady SK Levine JA. Obesity 2009 17, 2103–2105.
Association of Sitting Time and Physical Activity With CKD: A Cross-sectional Study in Family Practices Bharakhada, Nilesh et al. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2012 60:4 583 – 590.
Associations of Recreational Physical Activity and Leisure Time Spent Sitting With Colorectal Cancer Survival. Campbell PT et al. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2013 31:7, 876-885
Sitting Time and All-Cause Mortality Risk in 222 497 Australian Adults. van der Ploeg, HP et al. Arch Intern Med. 2012 172(6):494–500.