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Standing Desks Aren’t a Healthy Solution for Sedentary Daily Activities

RKMD Blog February 27, 2018

If you work at a desk for more than six hours per day, some clinical studies have suggested that you may be at increased risk of chronic health conditions, heart problems and circulatory issues.   This is a big deal to office workers, since the work requires sitting and prolonged positioning throughout the day.  In fact (let’s be honest) you can get into trouble if you are seen to be ‘wandering around’ the office, instead of seated at your desk, and working.

We are all looking for ways to incorporate more movement, and physical fitness into our day.  When you consider that the average American may spend 40-45 hours behind a desk at work, and an average of 15 hours or more per week, at home using laptops or desktop computers, it is a legitimate health concern.  And standing desks were introduced commercially, as a way of solving the problem.   Unfortunately, the health benefits of moving, are not the same, when you are standing in a stationary position, according to a new study that debunks the health benefit of standing desks.

A New Study Reports That Standing Desks May Not Be a Solution

The Journal of Ergonomics released an interesting new study, that has office workers re-thinking what was first introduced as a solution to sedentary health risks.  In “A detailed description of the short-term musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of prolonged standing for office computer work,” the study reflects on problems with both the health of the worker, and productivity and alertness, while using a standing desk.

The details of the study indicate that the standing spinal position, and muscle demand when someone is not moving (but remaining in a stationary position) could in fact be harmful. It reported that reaction time and mental processing slowed, given the additional coordination required to complete work activities from a standing position. One benefit (and this is good news to individuals employed in graphic design, video editing or writing) is that creativity levels were shown to improve while standing.  However, problems with limb swelling (legs and arms), and other types of inflammation were linked to the use of standing desks.

What is most concerning about this new report, is that it also correlates with an earlier study, that links standing at work (in a stationary position) to an increased risk of heart attack and heart disease, for office workers.

The American Journal of Epidemiology, published “The Relationship Between Occupational Standing and Sitting and Incident Heart Disease Over a 12-Year Period in Ontario, Canada,” in August of 2017.  The findings were reported after a 12-year study of 7,000 participants, and the results revealed that workers who often stood during the workday, were almost twice as likely to develop heart disease, as opposed to those who sat down, or moved more often.

Office Workers Should Prioritize Fitness

What both studies do, is remind us all that fitness matters greatly to our personal wellness outcomes.  Office workers should make daily aerobic fitness (if cleared by their primary care provider), a healthy habit, knowing that both sedentary and prolonged standing positions during the workday, are not a heart healthy lifestyle.

Find something you love doing, whether it is running, walking or cycling, swimming laps or yoga, that provides the minimum amount of daily exercise your body needs, to get (and stay) healthy.   Also remember to stretch during the workday.  It can improve your mood, your energy level and productivity, and help reduce health complications.

We enjoyed this article, from BreakingMuscle.com, which offered step-by-step instructions, to do a complete and thorough 10-minute stretch throughout the day.   Set an alarm on your smartphone, to remind you to get up from your chair, and engage in a healthy stretch, at least three times per day.

For more tips, check out this article on Fast Company.  Your heart will thank you.



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