Sitting is bad, you knew that—but recent studies have confirmed that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for chronic disease. This includes heart disease, which cost the US almost $109 billion in 2010 alone according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including medications and other health care.
What has also been revealed is that physical activity outside of work doesn’t take away all the ill effects of sitting. So the weekend warrior may not be enough. More and more workplaces are opting for sit-to-stand desks, standing desks, and treadmill desks. Do you need one? Let’s take a look at the hard evidence.
- Sitting at a desk may be heart breaking. People really started paying attention when results from the Dallas Heart Study showed that each hour of sitting at work was associated with a 10% higher odds of having coronary artery calcium (measured by a CT scan). A surprise here was that physical activity after work didn’t counteract that risk. Moving more often is better than sitting all day, and a standing desk will help you accomplish this.
- Burn more energy. A recent study took 23 obese office workers and had them alternate every 30 minutes between standing and sitting desks and found a significantly higher daily workplace energy expenditure when standing to work compared to sitting.
- Better sleep. Another study found that workers who shared a standing/treadmill desk for three months (they had to use it for 2 hours a shift) had lower blood pressure, and sleep quality scores were significantly improved.
- Neck pain. Studies have shown that prolonged sitting at the workplace is associated with improper posture of the head (forward head position) and thoracic kyphosis (curvature) both of which have been found to be accompanied with neck pain. These positional problems are improved with intermittent standing during the day.
- Not as hungry? In a study of workers in Minneapolis sit-stand workstations reduced sitting by 8 hours in a 40 hour week and folks reported an increased overall sense of well-being and energy, decreased fatigue, and reduced appetite and dietary intake.
- Chronic disease and sitting. A large study from Brazil found that sitting at work was the most consistent behavior associated with chronic diseases, especially in men. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity were more common in those who sat during work.
- Low back pain. People who sit without taking breaks have more degenerative disc disease in the spine. Prolonged sitting without intermittent breaks at work has been shown, by lumbar spine MRI, to result in change in disk height is at the L4-5 level. The same study found there were no spine changes in those with brief positional changes every 15 minutes. Sit-stand workstations may help low back pain and disability.
- People like them. In yet another study, those using sit-stand desks reported a high level of satisfaction, with 96% choosing to use them permanently. Workers using sit-stand desks experienced greater energy and alertness at work and reported increased face-to-face interaction with coworkers.
Standing desks. It’s time.