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What is sitting too much doing to us?

9 August 2018

The standing desk craze that you keep hearing about is actually based on a substantial body of work from the researcher Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic who has a statistic to share: in the US, the average person spends more than half of our waking hour sitting down, split between watching TV, driving a car, and working at a desk. This is not good, and the UK appears to be heading that way too with a rising level of obesity.

The problem with sitting is essentially two-fold. 

The first part is obvious: We burn fewer calories when we’re sat down. The second part is a bit more subtle but perhaps more profound: extended sitting sessions change our body’s metabolism and affect your joints.

 The Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found, in a large research pool of 17,000 men and women, that people who “sit for most of the day are 54 per cent more likely to die of heart attacks.”

So What Can I Do About It?

The cure for too much sitting isn’t always more exercise (although it does help of course). The average person never does enough to counteract the effect of hours and hours of chair time.

You can start small. Even something as small as taking a 5-minute standing break every hour is better than sitting all day. 

You can also invest in a standing desk that we keep hearing about. My boss had VERY kindly treated me to a Lavoro height adjustable desk. 

It isn’t as simple as you’d think though. Some tips on how to standing up at your desk: Wear footwear with padding, or like me, no shoes at all. Get used to standing slowly, over time, and to stand with one leg slightly resting on a raised object to give your spine room to flex naturally. Also, don’t be afraid to lean on your desk a little.

You can purchase a padded mat that is specially made anti-fatigue mat as well. 

There are perks, aside from the health concerns above. Mainly, elevated energy levels and calorie burning. Studies show that standing burns 40 per cent more calories than sitting and that just 2.5 hours on your feet per day burns 350 calories—that works out as 20 pounds per working year.

What Are the Drawback and Dangers?

Standing all day long is not that healthy either. Standing 8 to 10 hours a day can lead to increased varicose veins, and a ninefold increase rate in carotid atherosclerosis (constricted arteries). This is a valid point, but I’m guessing that most people out there do not spend 8-10 hours a day standing. They instead spend that time sitting. So I still think that standing is better than sitting, just as long as you take some breaks. Because remember, the problem is not sitting–it’s sitting all day.

When you are new to it, standing can feel tiring, and your feet can hurt. Just how uncomfortable the first week or two might feel depends upon how sedentary your current lifestyle is.

Above all, we recommend moderation with your standing. As a recommendation for every hour that you stand you should be having a 10-15 minute sitting break. 

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