Is Sitting the New Smoking?

One growing trend in a healthy work life is ditching the chair and moving to a standing desk.

The Financial Times writes that “an increasing number of experts are saying that sitting for long periods is the ‘new smoking’ in terms of increasing our risk of death and disease – no matter how ergonomic your chair or how extensive your weekly exercise routine. This is because leg and back muscles become shortened over time from staying in a sitting posture and your heart suffers from a lack of activity.”

The piece continues: “Working at a computer while standing has been shown to be beneficial to office workers in a number of ways. Marvin Dainoff, an ergonomist who is director of the centre for behavioural science at US insurer Liberty Mutual, found that workers who stand up during their workday have “fewer complaints about their health as well as having higher work accuracy.’ Furthermore, they take fewer breaks than their sedentary colleagues and get more accomplished.”

Of course, there is also risk to standing too much.

“’There is a risk to the lower back and lower limbs from standing,’ says Karen Messing, who has studied this issue as a professor of biological sciences at the University of Quebec. Prof Messing says the ideal ratio is roughly 70 per cent standing and 30 per cent sitting, alternating throughout the day.”

Yahoo offers an article by one standing desk convert, who lists the reasons she’s happy with the move:

  1. “Despite my best intentions (and years of childhood ballet training), I’d hunch over in my chair for hours at a time. Slouching while standing at a desk would require real effort.”
  2. “Since I’m already up, I’m more likely to walk over to someone to ask a question or discuss an idea than to fire off an e-mail, which is healthier and more efficient, and yields richer communication.”
  3. “Sore feet are never an issue, thanks to my trusty antifatigue mat, made of spongy vinyl to give me all-day cushioning and support.”
  4. “My belly doesn’t bulge as much as it does when I’m sitting. Feeling less self-conscious about my abs and tightening them at the same time? Win!”
  5. “I’m empowered. When a coworker approaches me about a touchy issue while I’m sitting, I tend to react defensively. When I’m standing, I feel a greater sense of confidence and control.”
  6. “I have a newfound appreciation for meetings — or, should I say, sitting breaks.”