Wellness Blog

Sitting or Standing: The Great Workplace Health Debate

Posted by Dr. Paul Zickler

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June 14, 2016 at 6:11 AM

Multiple variations of the shocking articles with titles like Is Sitting The New Smoking? is making its way across work inboxes, shared among co-workers and has caused workplaces to re-evaluate how they perceive workplace health.  The essence of these articles support the view that a sedentary lifestyle is more fatal to one’s health than smoking.  For the overwhelming majority, people spend their waking hours sitting when driving, working, and relaxing. 

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Why is sitting bad for you?

Our bodies are not built for an inactive lifestyle, as human evolution over thousands of years has structured our bodies to thrive under constant movement.  Comparisons of the dangers of sitting to smoking seem convincing given some of these facts:

  • Sitting for long periods of time temporarily deactivates lipoprotein lipase in your blood that breaks down fat molecules. As a result, there is a buildup in plaque and increased risk of heart disease. 
  • Sitting applies pressure to the veins, arteries and nerves in your legs. Taking a seat actually causes swelling from the restriction of blood flow to your legs and numbness from the pressure placed on nerves.  People who sit for long periods of time are at an increased risk of deep venous thrombosis – the formation of blood clots which can detach and lodge in the lungs. 
  • Most people have a slouched posture with a curved back when working at a desk, which puts pressure on different parts of your spine, leading to back issues. Over time, slouching causes wear and tear on certain discs, overworks ligaments and joints, and puts strain on muscles.

Why can standing be bad?

You’ve been sitting for your whole life; it’s not time to go cold turkey now.  Along with the health benefits of standing like weight-loss, critics point out that there are also some dangers of spending too much time in a standing position. 

  • Prolonged standing without movement increases the chances to develop varicose veins. It is important to keep your veins healthy and prevent varicose veins with supplements such as Lorna Vanderhaeghe’s Veinsmart.
  • Extended periods of standing can cause imbalance in lower back muscles, which lead to lower back pain and compression of your spine. For many who are not used to standing when working, a hunched position at a standing desk poses similar back problems to sitting slouched at a desk.
  • An increased risk of deep vein thrombosis results from inactivity that can occur from standing for long periods. These blood clots form due to bad circulation from maintaining a stationary position.

What is the solution?

So, both sitting and standing have similar dangers? How do I know if I should sit or stand?

There isn’t one easy answer, after all, it is a debate.  One pertinent detail is that the act of sitting is not unhealthy in itself .  A sedentary lifestyle is the driving factor for all these health concerns; whether you are sitting or standing, long periods of inactivity in either position is actually the fatal killer.  The most important lesson is to include movements into your workday, like alternating between sitting and standing because movement is the best way to keep your body healthy.

Even people who have an active lifestyle outside of work are at risk of many adverse health conditions because they are inactive for long periods of time at work.  Regular exercise is beneficial for your health, but it is only part of the solution.   An increasing amount of workplaces are adopting adjustable-height desks as a way to keep their employees healthy.

Even without these innovative new desks you can stave off some dangerous health conditions with movement.  Here’s a few ways you can keep healthy:

  • Use the right setting on an ergonomic chair. You want to be sitting in a balanced position with a straight back and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Use a stability or balancing cushion on your chair to keep your core active and moving.
  • If your job allows some movement, get up from your desk every hour for 2 minutes.
  • Perform small exercises while sitting down like flexing your feet or stretching your back to keep your muscles from being inactive.

 

Topics: Stress, Wellness, Body

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