The Negative Effects of Prolonged Sitting
Sitting for a prolonged period, whether watching TV or working at your desk, will have negative effects. While you’re sitting, your body isn’t working at the same pace it is when standing or moving around. Your body burns less fat, your blood moves more slowly, and your muscles become tight when left unused. The poor circulation affects the legs, with problems that range from varicose veins and swelling in the ankles to dangerous blood clots. Your neck and back can become strained from leaning forward to work at a computer or look at a phone, and damage will occur if this becomes a habit. The effects aren’t just physical: even the slowed action in the brain can cause mental fogginess. Your body becomes adapted to not using its strength, which means that it begins to soften and weaken.1 One study compared the effects on adults who sat for less than two hours a day with those who sat for more than four hours. The adults who sat longer had a greatly increased risk of death from causes like cardiovascular disease or a heart attack. Even engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity for a few hours a week does not significantly offset the effects of sitting. The best solution seems to be reducing the amount of time spent sitting. You could “stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch” or invest in a standing desk.2
Benefits of a Standing Desk
A standing desk is a specialized or modified desk that is meant to be used while standing. The standing desk benefits include a lowered obesity risk, reduced cancer risk, and better posture. Standing at your desk, even with short breaks of sitting, is already an improvement over the prolonged sitting of daily work. There are a few things to take into consideration when using a standing desk, such as that the transition from sitting to standing may be straining to your body at first. This could be counteracted with the use of a gel mat to reduce the pressure on your lower body. It’s also important to keep your body moving sometimes. Standing may already be an improvement over sitting, but adding regular walking throughout the workday and even some simple stretching breaks at the desk can have added benefits.3 One study, done over seven weeks, compared the results of two groups: one that used standing desks while the other did not. The first group reduced time spent sitting by about an hour per day, benefitting from reduced back and neck pain as well as improved mood, as well as some other benefits.. Removing the standing desk caused the positive effects to become negated within a couple of weeks.4 Adults at work aren’t the only ones who benefit from standing desks: students become more engaged at school when they aren’t sitting. Students that are more engaged lead to an improvement in education, creativity, and performance. These improvements are shown more in students who are overweight, though activity for all students “has led to higher grades and fewer failing students”. The increased energy that comes over time from standing in school can lead to more energy for fitness and play. These are the kids that are more likely to grow up to become adults who have already begun to learn to make better decisions for a healthier lifestyle.5
Standing desks range in price and in style. An adjustable standing desk is ideal because it can be tailored to height preference and switching from standing to sitting. Manual lifts can be raised and lowered by hand while gas lifts and electronic lifts require almost no manual effort. The advantage of a manual lift is that it is built to be lightweight for user convenience, so it is easy to move. Electronic lifts are going to be more of an investment compared to gas and manual.6 A standing desk converter is used to convert a regular desk into a standing desk. The converter can act as a trial version of the full standing desk or if you need to turn multiple desks into standing desks without spending the extra money. Another form of the standing desk is the treadmill desk. Treadmill desks combine the essential tasks of work and movement. Because one is using the desk continuously throughout the day, the walking speed does not have to be very fast for there to be benefits. Walking less than two miles per hour is sufficient, even with sitting breaks. Using a treadmill desk consistently over a long period will increase overall endurance due to an almost constant low level of activity keeping the body moving.7 Some might think that using a treadmill while working would become detrimental to performance. In one study, two groups were given a series of response-related tests. The difference in cognitive performance between the two groups was “relatively unaffected during slow treadmill walking relative to sitting.”8
Find out more ways chiropractic and ergonomics can help you.