If you’re like 40% of the working population in the US, you’re a working professional or a manager. There is a serious health risk you may not have considered before.
No, it’s not eating too many donuts. It’s not consuming an excessive amount of coffee. It’s not electromagnetic radiation from your devices. It’s not the low amount of fresh air you breathe or the lack of natural light. It’s not even the health problems traced to microwaves or fluorescent lighting.
While all these are unhealthy aspects of office jobs, there is something far deadlier. In fact, it’s something you’ve always considered harmless.
Here’s a clue:
How often do you sit all day?
Yes, sitting is one of the worst things that you could do to damage your health. Extensive research on sitting explores how it harms your body in many ways. It weakens your immune system. It disrupts your natural body rhythms. It compromises your blood circulation. And it weakens the muscles of the lower half of your body.
Fortunately, it’s easy to solve this problem before it damages your health. The solution is to get a sit-stand desk.
Sitting: How Bad Can It Be?
The healthy suggestion to sit more and stand less is not a popular one. When people first hear about it, their first impulse is to dismiss it. At first blush, it appears ridiculous to suggest that sitting is harmful.
After all, you’re just sitting there, minding your own business. So how bad can it be? In fact, you’ve known people who’ve spent their whole lives sitting through most of it.
This resistance is understandable. Sitting is a natural way of life for most of us in the civilized world. Unless you work retail or have an outdoor job, you are likely to sit down when you work.
Sitting is an intrinsic part of our lifestyles.
When you went to school, you sat most of the time. At work, you had to sit down and work on your computer. Commuting, you had to sit down in a car, a train, or a plane. Finally, at home, you have to sit down to eat and to watch television.
In fact, in our technological age, you’re expected to sit down more to work at your computer. So it’s hard to imagine getting ahead in your career by sitting less and standing or walking around more.
Despite all these reasons to prefer sitting to standing or walking, you should sit less.
Sitting As a Health Hazard
Let’s be clear: sitting is not a health hazard. It’s sitting for hours at a time in one place that causes health problems.
Here are some health problems associated with sitting:
- Physical problems.
- You strain your lower back muscles by twisting your torso as you work at a desk. You’re typing or shuffling papers while keeping your lower body in a fixed position. As a result, you create pressure on your discs and may experience lumbago and sciatica.
- Your tight hamstrings and slumped shoulders cause you to develop poor posture.
- Your breathing concentrates on the upper chest. Instead of deep breathing from your diaphragm and stomach, you have shallow chest breathing. This results in less oxygen in your bloodstream and more carbon dioxide.
- Your heart beats slower because you are not moving much. You also tend to compress your chest more as you lean forward.
- Your digestion gets sluggish because of insufficient stimulation of the abdominal muscles.
- Your hormones become imbalanced. You have less endorphins and more cortisol. You are also putting pressure on your pituitary gland.
- You burn fewer calories and start to store more fat. If you have a diet rich in salt, sugar, and fat, you increase your chances of obesity.
- Intellectual problems.
- As your body becomes more sluggish, so does your brain. Poor circulation results in less oxygen and glucose to the brain.
- You feel sleepy more often.
- You find it difficult to concentrate on your work.
- Psychological problems.
- Lower levels of serotonin and dopamine affect your moods. You tend to feel either more anxious or depressed.
- You begin to have a cynical, pessimistic view about your possibilities.
- Your low energy levels makes you more apathetic. You are less interested in pursuing personal goals.
What Can You Do?
The more you sit, the more likely you are to experience a larger number of these problems.
Besides getting a standing desk, here are some other things you can do to improve your health.
- Get up after a project or a specified period of time, stand, stretch, and walk around more.
- Improve your healthy habits. Eat nutritious meals. Drink more water (hopefully, your employer has invested in an office water filtration system or otherwise provides free drinking water). Exercise regularly. Do yoga. Try jogging, callisthenics, or weight lifting.
- Spend more time in nature, go for long walks, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the sunshine.
Small Lifestyle Changes
Prolonged sitting can create serious health problems. It can lower the quality and length of your life. Although the problem is a serious one, the solution is easy. Make small lifestyle changes to sit less and stand more.
Remote working for all or part of the week is better for our wellbeing. It allows us to break out from the ‘home office’ more often for micro-breaks. Use your break to go for a quick walk and to stretch.
Gone are the days where you need to be seen at your desk for seven or eight hours.