Today’s workforce finds themselves either standing for the majority of the day as a result of their occupation (wait staff, cashier, cook/chef, hairdresser, etc) or seated for the majority of the day. Many have found themselves either seeking opportunities to stand and move throughout their day or grab a chair to rest. It appears that there are health consequences for prolonged sitting and standing; Are we darned if we sit and darned if we stand?
Standing for 30% or more of the workday, or 2 ½ hours in a row without a movement break, can have health complications comparable to those of sedentary lifestyles. Prolonged standing- in the same position- can lead to issues within the circulatory, musco-skeletal and endocrine systems. More specifically:
- Pain and swelling in the legs and feet from reduced circulation
- Varicose veins leading to backflow of blood
- Achilles tendonitis
- Heel problems, Plantar fascitis
- Lower back pain from compression of the lumbar spine
- Heart and circulatory problems due to the body attempting to push blood against gravity (venous insufficiency)
However, don’t let this scare you into sitting. Research has unveiled that long periods of sedentary time can result in obesity and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a disease state where an individual has three or more of the following: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or excess body fat around the waist (visceral fat). Excess sitting can also increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. So, how much is too much?
The aforementioned risks of prolonged standing appear to arise with daily standing exceeding 4 hours. The research on sitting is mixed but appears to be about the same. Sitting for more than 4 hours without movement breaks each day can lead to additional health risks. Additionally, a daily trip to the gym does not appear to reduce the risk of excessive sitting. So, change is still warranted even if you work out and then head to your desk or easy chair for the remainder of the day.
The solution is a mix and balance of sitting, standing, moving and stretching. If you are seeking ways to get moving, consider taking 3; Sit for 60 minutes and then move for 3 minutes. During the 3-minute movement break one could:
- Walk to grab a drink of water.
- Walk to a co-worker versus sending an email.
- Stand and stretch.
- Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.
- Step outside- or stay inside to walk around the building.
This break will provide the heart-pumping activity your body is looking for.
If you are a stander, needing to work in opportunities to sit, consider standing for an hour and then sitting for 30-60 minutes. After the 1 to 2 hours, take 3 and engage in any of the above movement break activities mentioned above.
Whether you are a sitter or a stander, everyone benefits from deskercising! The following are some suggested exercises to enjoy at your desk.
Give your heart rate a boost by:
- Perform 20 jumping jacks.
- Jog or march in place for 1 minute.
- Wander the cubicles for a few minutes.
- Celebrate a success with a few squat jumps.
Wake up your booty and legs by:
- Removing your chair and performing wall sits for 30-60 seconds.
- Perform a few sets of calf-raises while waiting for that 100-page document to print.
- Tone up your seat by squeezing your buttocks for 10 seconds then release. Repeat this 3-5 times.
- Lunge or Squat up and down every time you use the phone.
Loosen up your neck and shoulders and practice proper posture by:
- Swimming laps; pretend to be swimming while performing arm circles.
- Release steam or rock out with a few fist pumps over 60 seconds, then switch. Whether your boxing or clubbing, your arms will appreciate it.
- Practice 15 tricep dips by placing the heels of your hands on your desk and lowering your body up and down.
- Shoulder shrug with a pencil pinch can correct your posture. Shrug shoulders up and then roll them back while attempting to pinch a pencil between your shoulder blades. Hold the pinch for 10 seconds and repeat.
- Wall push-ups can give you an aerobic lift while loosening your chest after a prolonged sit.
- Look around to stretch your neck. Intentionally look up as far as you can, down as far as you can, to the left and then to the right and repeat this circuit as many times as you wish.
Don’t hesitate in incorporating these tips but, consider starting small and slow. Your effort will not be in vain. The impact of the rest and intentional physical activity that you will provide your body throughout the day will be profound!