The news is in and it’s not pretty. It seems that cozy and upholstered chair at home or place of work, may be bad for us. Yes, even the height adjusted and ergonomic variety has not escaped the scrutiny of modern science.
Some employees (even the self-employed) have to sit for up to 31 of 40 hours a week; 46 if working a 60-hour week. And here’s the kicker. Even if you participate in daily exercise after work, the risks may not be mitigated. Scientists are linking prolonged, uninterrupted sitting to being a health hazard of and by itself, akin to smoking.
How bad is it? Studies now show that sitting too long is linked to increased risk of premature death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. It is also associated with increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cancer, according to an Australian study published in the journal Circulation in January. The implications are that we as a society are becoming “shiftless” in our sedentary patters, as we float from chair to chair throughout the day.
The issue of sedentary work gained considerable media attention in 2003, when the European Respiratory Journal reported the case of a young man from New Zealand who nearly died after developing deep vein thrombosis following long periods of physical inactivity in front of his computer. The man, the first recorded victim of a condition which has been dubbed e-thrombosis, spent up to 18 hours a day using his computer.
The good news is that movement prevents such disorders. A whole cascade of metabolic [phenomena] involving insulin receptor activation, lipo protein lipase [an enzyme that helps break down fat] activity and more is activated within two minutes of getting our rear ends off that chair.
That means even small movements hourly are important. Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. Simple side to side, back and forth or gentle up and down motions strengthen the abs and back and keep metabolic processes running faster. Also try to get up once an hour and move around. Even if you just swing your arms, do a few knee bends, or stretch out, you’ll feel better. Don’t worry about how it looks. You can also use the restroom on another floor and take the stairs, or deliver documents or messages to co-workers in person rather than by email.
Be creative. Any movement is better than none, and any boss worth their salt will understand this small hourly effort actually makes you more efficient and saves your health, rather than being a waste of company time.
For those employees not inclined to move more, bosses may have to look into the continuing development of ergonomic chairs with the cardio-vascular benefit of a little pin that pokes through the seat at regular intervals.