ffices are pretty much of a
muchness, aren’t they? Inside, there
are many desks placed in front of
many chairs where many workers
spend many hours sitting slouched over
many keyboards staring at the many screens
of many computers. In fact, it is estimated
that half of all jobs in western society are
Our lifestyles are, on the whole, sedentary.
Not only are a large number of us desk-
bound – and, therefore, inactive throughout
the working day – but we also travel to and
from our workplaces on trains, buses or in our
cars – sitting – and at home, we eat – sitting
– and relax in front of the TV – sitting and so
on. Of late, all this inactivity has been linked
to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes,
cancer and even depression. Basically, it’s
killing us, with the medical world now dubbing
it the ‘sitting disease’.
And, by the way, it’s not great for our
productivity, either. Evidence suggests we all
need a break from tasks because the brain
begins to lose focus after a long time spent
concentrating. This, in turn, can lead to poor
performance – and fitness experts maintain
that standing while you work can, in fact,
improve concentration by increasing blood
flow to the brain. Recent medical studies also
show that even active people are not immune
to these health concerns regarding too much
time spent sitting. With scientists claiming
‘sitting is the new smoking’, then, if smoking is
Page 36 July/August 2015 ︲ www.practice-management.org.uk
bad for you (even with lots of exercise), sitting
for long periods of time must be, too.
Hunters and gatherers
So, just how can we stop sitting all day – a
dangerous habit that’s light years away from
the hunters and gatherers we once were?
Fans of workplace wellness have been
extoling the virtues of stand up desks for a
long time and, what may have been once
dismissed by many as a quirky trend, may
just become the mainstay of healthy living.
Interest in them peaked earlier this month
with the release of the UK’s first official health
guidelines that said office workers should be
on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day
during working hours.
The guidance, published in the British
Journal of Sports Medicine, warned that UK
sedentary behaviour now accounts for 60% of
people’s waking hours and, for those working
in offices, 65-75% of their working hours
are spent sitting, of which more than 50% of
this is accumulated in prolonged periods of
sustained sitting. The guidelines also suggest
that workers should use adjustable sit-stand
desks, and should go for ‘light walks’ to
alleviate possible musculoskeletal pain and
fatigue as part of the adaptive process.
And so, as a result of much media coverage,
stand up desks are growing in popularity
– the NHS itself is currently running a year-
long trial assessing the benefits of height-
adjustable desks [see box out]. And there is
whole selection of stand up desks out there,
A complementary word
Modern living is killing us – so, it’s about time we
stood up for our health, writes Julie Bissett?
Office workers do it
best standing up
ranging from freestanding workstations to others
that are placed on top of a regular desk or table.
Interestingly, many of those using them report
feeling more energetic and more productive.
And now, having taken delivery of a sit down/
stand up desk at the start of this month, I have
already noticed my productivity increasing when
I’m on my feet. I’m more creative, more alert and
focused and get tasks completed efficiently; I’m
even more aware of my posture, too. I am taking
my screen breaks regularly and, as I’m up on my
feet already, am visiting the water cooler more
often, topping up on that all-essential H2O!
The transition from stand up to sit down level
is seamless and readily accommodates the
recommended goal – breaking up the day to
avoid the typical, constant sitting we all do in an
office and factoring in more time spent standing,
building up to two hours a day and beyond. By
choosing to climb the stairs rather than the lift
and taking a stroll at lunchtime rather than eating
a sandwich hunched over a keyboard, you are
also choosing the healthier options. Old habits
are hard to break but, if we are to beat this
‘sitting disease’, a small investment of time on
your feet may just prove to be a valuable long-
term health asset.
The average office worker will gain 16lbs in
their first eight months whilst working in an
Researches shows that sitting in a chair for
10 or more hours a week can be directly
linked to weight gain, back issues and
circulatory problems in the long run. In
contrast, standing seems to reverse many of
Standing improves your breathing by allowing
the chest to be fully open, giving full facility
to the diaphragm, maximising the available
capacity for air intake into your lungs and so
delivering more oxygen to your body that, in
turn, improves your concentration.
Instead of crouching over the computer
screen, move naturally. This allows the body
to burn calories and engages muscles, the
extra movement allows the blood to circulate
throughout the body.
Standing is an effective approach to tackling
high blood pressure. Hypertension is an
excessive fall in blood pressure that occurs
when a person stands up or is in an upright
10 reasons to use a standing desk
1. Burns more calories
2. Corrects posture
3. Improves circulation
4. Better breathing
5. Engages muscles
6. Kick-starts metabolism
7. Improves concentration and confidence
8. Reduces stress
9. Reduces blood pressure
10. A better night’s sleep
NHS gets staff moving
The NHS is running a year-long trial assessing the
benefits of height-adjustable desks. Three hospitals in
Leicestershire now have the desks, which offer clerical and
admin staff the choice of raising or lowering them whilst
working at a computer. Staff using the desks will also be
given regular prompts via a wristband reminding them to
move. Researchers will monitor the differences in health,
wellbeing and performance between those who use them
and another group who use sitting desks.
Dr Munir, senior lecturer in psychology in the School of
Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS), said:
‘Sitting is extremely harmful. It has been linked to a risk of
diabetes, obesity, and a lot of metabolic diseases. People
are sitting far too long. The evidence now suggests that if
you are sitting for eight, nine hours and you then do one
hour of exercise, it has very little impact.
‘I’m hoping to find that workers will feel much more
energised because they are breaking up their bouts of
sitting, and allowing the blood and oxygen to flow through
the body better.’
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