Let's All Give a Standing Ovation for Standing Up
Who would have thought that being a "couch potato" could be detrimental to your health? Seriously, if you thought it was okay to sit all day, then you need to evaluate your personal health even if you exercise regularly.
Most people would be amazed at just how long they sit each day. Whether you're driving, watching TV, eating, or working, chances are you're sitting during all of these activities and probably sitting right now reading this newsletter. Most people -- especially those in generally good health -- will ask, "so what?" but it turns out that they might be surprised to discover that sitting is very bad for overall health.
An article on Bloomberg titled Workers Take a Stand Against Sitting references an analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine where researchers looked at data in 47 separate studies and came to the conclusion that sitting for long periods of time was linked with a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and even death. Even if the person exercised often, the analysis found that sitting for many hours each day was associated with poor health. The reason being is that the amount of time most people typically sit during the day outweighs the benefit they get from exercise. However, the more someone exercised tended to reduce the negative impact of sitting.
So just how long is too long to sit? Even though the studies analyzed were varied, the researchers determined that sitting for fewer than four hours a day was ideal and sitting for more than eight hours a day constituted prolonged -- and therefore bad -- sitting. In fact, a CNN article titled Sitting Will Kill You, Even If You Exercise noted that according to the World Health Organization, sitting for eight to 12 or more hours a day increased the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 90%!
Where this really comes into focus is how long most people sit at their desks while working. In a traditional nine-to-five office, that means most employees are already sitting for eight hours or coming very close to it, considering that during lunch and rest breaks the employees are still probably sitting down.
A possible solution is the latest trend in "standing" desks. Just as their name implies, a standing desk is the same as a traditional desk except that it can vary in height so that the employee is able to stand while working. As employers are more in tune with the benefits of having healthy employees, they are looking into more options to get workers to stand up and walk around. Standing desks are usually more expensive than traditional desks, but companies should consider the health benefit to the employee and the potential it has toward ROI instead of the added expense. In the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Employee Benefits Survey, which is an annual survey that gathers information on the types of benefits employers offer to their employees, it found that 20% of companies offered subsidies for standing desks -- an increase over the 13% that offered a subsidy in 2013.
This trend appears to be great news for employees who want to stand while working, but what should someone do if their company is unwilling to provide this type of desk? One option is that the employee purchase the desk for their personal use and can take it with them should they ever leave the company. Other, less expensive options include making standing a health goal and keeping track of how much you're sitting. You can then use that log to reduce sitting time little by little each week. When you're at work, try not to stay hunched over a desk too long and actually get up and walk around the office for a few minutes. At home while watching TV, rather than fast forwarding through the commercials on your DVR, get up and do some activity. Once you've achieved the ideal daily sitting time of four hours or less, you can give yourself a standing ovation.