Get your derriere out of that chair—sitting is the new smoking.
Now it may seem a tad over the top to make such a dramatic declaration, but more and more studies are showing the health hazards of too much sitting. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, obesity, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, herniated lumbar discs, colon, breast and endometrial cancers and more.
What’s scarier is that these risks seem to exist whether you exercise or not. And the risks are higher for women than for men.
So, just how dangerous is sitting to our health? Probably no worse than remaining in any other position for a prolonged period of time, be it standing, reclining … or sitting. Truth is that while we may be culturally mandated to sit—a large portion of the population works at a job that involves sitting most of the day—we are biologically designed to move.
“Sitting still is not what our bodies are meant to do,” says Graham Robbins, director of rehab services at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes. “We’re meant to move and to be in different positions, so static positions of any kind can become problematic, whether you’re sitting, standing or lying. All of them have their negatives.”
Robbins says getting physical after work is clearly a good idea but we must also find ways to break up periods of sitting and become more active during the workday. He recommends going to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email or taking a walk around the office a few times a day. Even standing can be beneficial—provided it’s done in moderation.
Standing while you work might seem a bit odd but it’s a practice with a long and storied tradition. Winston Churchill wrote while working at a special standing desk, as did Ernest Hemingway and Benjamin Franklin.
Turns out they may have been onto something. Not only does working at a standing desk offer a respite from sitting, researchers at the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis found that employees who stood during meetings were more productive and collaborative than their seated peers.
Advocates of the standing desk don’t need studies to convince them of the benefits. Zach Phillips, director of Wilmington-based video production house the Kitchen, has been using a standing desk for two years. Phillips still enjoys a comfy office chair on occasion but feels his standing desk keeps him in work mode.
“I think there’s something about a standing desk that makes you feel like you’re at work. It puts you in a different mindset,” he says. “Plus I’ll take any activity I can get.”
Matthew Terrell, the founder of Vision Creations and Founder Films in Wilmington, agrees. “I do find I’m more productive. I have more energy,” he says. “I think I’m able to maintain a higher level of energy throughout the day with a stand-up desk. I don’t picture myself returning to a traditional sit-down desk.”