Better Get Up for This
We’ve all heard the news: sitting all day is bad for your body. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there, so what’s the science behind the alarmist headlines?
Our ergonomists say that our bodies crave regular movement. From a physiological and biomechanical standpoint, the human body was designed to change postures frequently. As recently as 100 years ago, sitting all day was an uncommon luxury. However, with the mass computerization of the workforce in the ‘80s and ‘90s, office workers started adopting sedentary behavior—that is, behavior that is defined by lack of movement, as opposed to a more dynamic style—by sitting at fixed-height desks for as long as eight hours a day. Today, most of us sit at desks for large portions of the workday, yet our bodies are designed to be upright and moving throughout the day.
These days, we are beginning to understand, from clinical, biochemical and cellular perspectives, the effects sedentary behavior has on our health. The results are eye-opening. Science has shown that prolonged sitting is linked to a variety of negative health outcomes. Research has also demonstrated that, as we remain sedentary for longer periods of time, we experience more pain and discomfort. When we sit, our muscles aren’t activated as much as they are when we’re moving, resulting in reduced blood flow and static muscle fatigue.
As we sit, structural changes happen to our spines. The intradiscal pressure on our spine increases, and this is compounded by our tendency to sit in unhealthy postures (slouching, straining, etc.), which put even more pressure on the discs.
According to Dr. James Levine and Selene Yeager, in their book “Move a Little, Lose a Lot,” sedentary behavior can also cause a reduction in an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which results in sluggish metabolisms as our bodies begin storing fat rather than using it for energy. This makes it difficult for us to control our weight.
So, what’s the solution? Our ergonomists say prolonged standing is not the answer, but more movement is.
The soft tissues in our body—our muscles, tendons and joints—reach optimal health when we move and rest throughout the day. Healthy movement doesn’t require us to dance on the spot, though. Simply switching from a seated to standing posture every so often is enough activity to keep our bodies healthy.
If your workplace doesn’t provide tools like a sit/stand product to support balanced movement, try to stand more throughout the day. Take regular breaks—not to check your Facebook at your desk, but to actually get up and move—to ensure you’re changing postures as often as possible.