Sitting down for long periods of time has always been known to be fairly unhealthy, with 18th century scientist Bernardino Ramazzini even discussing the various ailments that plagued workers of the time. However, since Ramazzini’s observations in the 1700s, sitting down at your desk has become far more comfortable, enticing even, when compared to other alternatives; but, the issues linked to sitting still haven’t changed, if anything, our modern lifestyle has aggravated them.
Recent approaches in making the workplace healthier have resulted in more and more employers creating standing workstations, or alternatives to sitting at a desk – everything from bean bags to bar stools. Apart from improving employee morale, it is a lot healthier. But what exactly are the negative effects caused by too much sitting?
As you may imagine, our understanding of our bodies and health have improved greatly since Ramazzini’s original remarks, but, if you excuse the pun, his point still stands. Standing has been proven to burn more calories, exercises our muscles more and improves our cardio-vascular health, just to name a few. Sitting, on the other hand, has been shown to have some scarier effects.
A Canadian researcher Dr Peter Katzmarzyk found a correlation between lower life expectancy and workers who sat for extended periods of time, compared to those who had to stand or move often. Similar results were seen in England by research Dr Emmanuel Stamatakis. Coupled with a modern diet high in salt, fat and sugar, lack of exercise and the prevalence of diabetes, it is easy to see why many within the workforce are seeking to improve the health of their employees.
Of course, a balanced diet and exercise is still the recommended course of action in order to stay healthy, but those two actions may not be within reach for everyone, which is why the industry is changing to make their places of work healthier. There are of course, different opinions on the matter of how to implement such measures, or how far they should go.
Fortunately, there is a general consensus around the best workplace performance. Researchers have shown that the best option is a mixture of both standing and sitting, with if possible, movement between different work stations or areas which can be an option in more modern, fluid working environments. Results showed that employees who alternated between both positions improved their blood sugar and energy without affecting their work productivity. So get to standing!