Are you sitting comfortably?
Then you want to stand up before reading this.
Standing now? Good.
Now we can begin.
It won’t take long because the topic is essentially simple: Except for a “lucky few” who still have jobs demanding that they spend a lot of time moving about, we tend to spend far too much time sitting.
Far too much of the work we do appears to require us to be sitting. At least, the work environments for a wide range of modern careers involve sitting at a desk.
The rest of the time, we are sitting in our cars, at tables having food, or on couches watching others move (typically on a screen) but staying put ourselves.
Although it is not a topic that’s been much in the news (yet), research findings point very accusing fingers to chairs as being a problem. Why?
1) The act of sitting does nothing for our metabolism. It is so convenient that our bodies essentially perceive the position as almost total rest. Even for people who have a good training routine, spending a lot of time sitting (presumably at work in their case) undoes the benefits of regular, intense exertion.
2) Perhaps more pernicious is the fact that the sitting position, in which we end up spending a lot of time, is exactly the wrong position for our muscles and bones to be in. Weight-bearing structures in our legs adjust to the sitting position because that’s what our bodies do; in doing that, they lose their ability to handle the standing position, including walking and running bouts.
The second effect is also responsible for a gradual loss of capabilities in the elderly or injured: folks who start having problems moving about and obtain assistance from wheelchairs and electric scooters rapidly come to require them all the time. Their bones and muscles become weaker, so they use the chairs more, and enter a vicious cycle.
What are we to do?
For starters, do what you are (or should be) doing right now: Stand while you do other things like read, talk on the phone, think, etc. In fact, any other position than sitting is better.
Second best, but a good habit to take: While it is difficult to do some types of work while standing, you must program regular “stand up moments” into your work routine. (Whether you use those moments to go tell jokes to your colleagues, or just stand by the water cooler for the latest gossip, is entirely up to you.)
Never sit for more than an hour at a time. Take frequent standing breaks. Try to do more of your work while standing. The benefits go beyond fitness and health: moving about while talking or simply thinking about a situation is also reported as providing more dynamic conversation and better ideas.
Not quite ready to take my word for it?
Then keep on standing a while longer, and read this article in Scientific American.
I waited until the end to provide the link, in the hope of keeping you on your toes, or at least on your feet, a little longer… You can thank me later.
Picture from Pixabay.