Sitting disease is a popular term for what’s also known as sedentary living, metabolic syndrome and inactivity, among others. It’s comfortable, easy to do and a huge hidden health threat.
Why are we so much more inactive? Humans don’t hunt and gather like we used to. Don’t chase prey. It’s hard to when we go from sitting at work, to the car and then to the couch at home.
Modern conveniences make life easier but not always healthier, as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression are just some of the possible health consequences of a sedentary work environment or lifestyle.
Throw in conditions like osteoarthritis, spinal and cervical damage, organ damage and decreased life expectancy – sitting too much flat-out is bad and exercise isn’t always enough to counter its effects.
Many occupations involve considerable sitting. Take a typical office worker who works mostly at a desk, probably on a computer. Not much physical activity involved, but large amounts of paperwork, reading or online research.
Two employees at an El Paso law firm are among those who have ditched their sit-and-work-at desks for something becoming popular – desks designed to be used by standees.
At El Paso law firm ScottHulse PC, Rachel Hinman is director of client development and marketing, while Roberto Chavez is an associate attorney. Both have stand-up desks, both are sold on the benefits.
“I never had a stand-up desk before I came here,” said Hinman, who’s been at the firm less than a year. In her freelance consulting days, she’d had one customer who’d found an old, all-metal desk – probably a welder’s table – that she stood at to use. Loved it.
Hinman didn’t – she tried it but didn’t find it all that comfortable.
At ScottHulse, Hinman’s office came pre-stocked with the requisite filing cabinet and a huge, heavy, wooden sit-down desk.
A few weeks into her job, she became concerned with the amount of sitting she was doing, her work requiring considerable computer use.
“The firm offered me an option of having a stand-up desk; our facilities manager suggested it. He said a few of the other attorneys there had them,” she said.
She’d seen Roberto Chavez’s stand-up desk, had even stood behind it and muttered “Hmmm.”
“So, I jumped at it.”
Hinman ended up getting a manual model – some stand-up desks come with motors and other bells and whistles. Her desk is a “real tall” but stationary model.
The 5-foot-8 Hinman has no problems with it. It’s essentially a tall table about waist-height with two surfaces, one for her keyboard and one for her computer monitor.
Her work keeps her office-bound, probably spending about seven hours a day on average working at her desk. She will not go back to a sitting desk.
“I slouch all the time anyway – that was one of the reasons I was enthusiastic about the stand-up desk,” she admitted. “It’s harder to slouch over at a stand-up desk.”
She also invested in new shoes – for standing. A full day of standing in flats caused achy legs and toes, so she found good shoes to stand/walk in. Bought three pairs. Loves them.
“I’d recommend a stand-up desk to everyone,” she added. “I started with one because I was curious, and now I don’t use a chair in the office at all. I gave my tall chairs away.”
The monstrous office desk she’d inherited? It sits nearby, its massive top surface now a storage place for papers Hinman places in piles.
Roberto Chavez understands this. He’s been at the firm for two-and-a-half years and has used a stand-up desk for about six months.
“Somebody else had one. I didn’t try it out ... I just kind of jumped into (using) it,” he admitted.
Not a litigator, Chavez does most of his work at a desk, sitting probably a good six to seven hours a day. No pain while at the office, but he found back pain hitting him on weekends.
“I’d been having lower-back problems but didn’t see a doctor,” he admitted. “I also had bad posture and blamed it on sitting down all day. Being a sloucher might’ve contributed to it.”
His stand-up desk is like Hinman’s: two wooden table tops. It can’t be moved around.
“For me, it’s worked perfect. No back pain on weekends.”
Chavez said he can stand for a good two or three hours straight when necessary.
“I’m gonna keep it,” he noted. “The best thing about it is that I can work sitting or standing; having that liberty is pretty nice.
“I get asked by colleagues about it.”
Hinman and Chavez are both young, which means you often can stand for long periods of time anyway.
But as one ages, sitting down more often become necessary. A good mixture of standing and sitting, especially to do work that requires a desk, is worth considering.
5 reasons why sitting too much is killing you
1. HEART HEALTH – Studies show that prolonged sitting negatively impacts the ancillary functions connected to heart health – blood fats, blood sugar, blood pressure and hormone levels related to metabolism and appetite. Also, new research shows that a gene called lipid phosphate phosphatase 1 (LPP1), which helps to keep our cardiovascular system healthy by preventing dangerous blood clotting and inflammation, is significantly suppressed when the body is idle for a few hours.
2. OSTEOARTHRITIS and SPINAL/CERVICAL DAMAGE – The bones in your joints become weaker when they’re not being used – i.e., bearing weight. Not only does this make them more susceptible to the pain of osteoarthritis when you do use them, but should you ever fall, you’re far more likely to suffer a fracture if you’re an over-sitter.
3. ORGAN DAMAGE – Your poor internal organs! When we sit too long, everything slows down – including blood flow and metabolism. And when blood flow slows down, your organs don’t get the nourishment they need. First, this impairs their function. Next, it leads to disease – including cancer.
4. DISEASE, DISEASE ... AND MORE DISEASE – Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist with the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University and director of Obesity Solutions, says there are at least two dozen different chronic diseases and conditions associated with excessive sitting. Simply standing sets off an entire cascade of cellular functions that helps protect the body against these diseases.
5. DECREASED LIFE EXPECTANCY – According to family physician and New York Times best-selling author Dr. James Mercola, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that each hour spent watching television (read: sitting down) past age 25 reduces your life expectancy by nearly 22 minutes. That equates to a five-year reduction in life expectancy for those who sit six hours daily.
Source: The Palm Beach Post/New York Times News Service