I'm reading a great book right now that explains the evolution of the human species, and how we as a species have developed from foragers (on the move all the time) to farmers (settled but still labouring), to now being's that spend the majority of their day slaving away behind a desk. And while the growth of homo sapiens' cognitive abilities has reshaped our cultural, economic and agricultural world immensely, our bodies have unfortunately not really evolved with us. Despite fewer injuries and death, arthritis, back pain, and obesity-related health concerns are at an all-time high. Why is this, and what factors are involved in this change?
Any extended periods of time spent sitting, such as behind a desk, in a car, or in front of a screen can be harmful. A meta-analysis of over 12 studies determined that more than 8 hours/d of sitting with no physical activity had the same risk of death as obesity and smoking. However, these effects can be counteracted with 60-75 mins of moderate to high-intensity exercise daily. Unfortunately, not everyone has the capability to sustain that level of exercise, so other solutions are needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle and offset seated hours. While studies are still needed to understand the benefits of offsetting prolonged sitting, some functional solutions exist to minimize the time you spend on your bottom.
First off, stand instead of sit. Almost all work that can be done at a seated desk, can also be done at a standing one. The ErgoConvert from AnthroDesk has been a game changer for me. Emailing and charting take up a large part of my day, and this sturdy, well constructed, electronically convertible standing desk is cutting my seated hours down sustainably. The electronic controls make it easy to convert back and forth as needed, and adjustable for multiple users in our home. Furthermore, there is a computer screen mount to make the setup even more ergonomic. Secondly, Get up and move. Take a break from sitting every 30 mins or so. Place the water cooler and fax machine at the opposite end of the office to encourage more movement and less time seated.
Take a stroll at lunch. Instead of sitting in the lunchroom with colleagues, catch up over a stroll around the block. Regular breaks, lunchtime exercise, and fresh air/daylight have been proven to increase productivity, boost office morale, and decrease sick days away from work. Watch TV in front of a treadmill. Position a treadmill or stationary bike in the eyesight of your television and walk while you catch up on your favourite television shows in the evening. Lastly, stand even more. Walk around while taking a phone call. Stand while you do the laundry. Stand around a bar-height table while you catch up with friends. The benefits of movement, even when leisurely, can significantly minimize the time we spend sitting (studies show on average up to a 33% decrease) and positively impact our health and lifestyles. Remember, the human body is built to move, and less time sitting will likely lead to better energy and maybe even weight loss. One thing to note - always set up your standing desk in an ergonomic way. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle, you should not be leaning forward or reaching for your keyboard, and your screen should be positioned at eye level. Place a sticky note on the corner of your screen to ensure you remind yourself to maintain an even weight distribution and not favour one leg while standing to prevent hip and back problems. Sincerely, Dr. H