There’s no question about it – prolonged sitting kills. It also leads to a higher risk of chronic disease. So why, as a society, do we expect our office employees to spend eight hours a day in a seated position? Knowing what we know about the damage this could cause, it’s borderline unethical. In the past, workers have been exposed to unfavorable, and even deathly working conditions. While the typical office job is no coal mine or dangerous factory, we must still face the reality that it’s not only a setting that discourages active wellness. It can and does have a significant negative impact on the health of our employee population.
While it was once perhaps just a hunch that sitting too long might be a bit unhealthy, reports in the past few years now confirm just how bad it actually is. A study by the American Cancer Society, published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found links between sitting and mortality and a plethora of chronic diseases.
Over 128,000 men and women without chronic disease were chosen for the 21-year study. For those who engaged in prolonged sitting (over 6 hours a day) – researchers found a higher risk of mortality in general – and a higher risk of mortality due to chronic disease in particular. Of the 48k who died – chronic diseases including diabetes, COPD, cardiovascular, liver and digestive diseases, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, nervous disorders and musculoskeletal disorders.
Now that we know how detrimental sitting is, but how do we act upon this information? In a typical office environment where sitting for 8 hours is the norm, standing up is a great start! For employers that care about employee wellness, facilitating employee standing is key. Adjustable, standing desks are becoming more popular for this very reason.
Employees reap the benefits, daily and over time by choosing to stand (or even better: a combination of standing and sitting). In the short term, each day, employees will burn more calories, increase blood flow to the brain, and return their blood sugar levels to normal more quickly after eating during the day. Over time, employees can experience better posture/spinal-alignment/muscle symmetry, less lower back pain, and more toned muscles.
These types of advantages should seem appealing enough. More so when you know that too much sitting also leads to brain atrophy, lower bone mineral content, and higher rates of anxiety. The results of these studies coincide with employee sentiments: 60% of employees feel they’d be more productive with standing desks.
Of course, standing desks are just a start. Tackling the challenge of workplace wellness isn’t easy but one thing we know for certain – when we invest in employee wellness – we all benefit.