To sit, or to stand… That is the question!

“We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting.” –Genevieve Healy, PhD

To sit or to stand, that is the question! Recently, there has been more and more media coverage promoting the new trend of stand up desks, and reports that sitting at your desk all day can actually take years of your life. We’re now starting to see that people who spend most of their day sitting have a risk of heart attack which is about equal to the heart attack risk of a smoker . Wow! “Sitting disease”, as it’s become known, is the term used to refer to the collection of disease processes associated with an overly sedentary lifestyle; things like high blood pressure, high blood lipids (fats), diabetes/ pre-diabetes, and central obesity (excess fat around the abdomen), etc. Lots of sitting certainly isn’t good for us – I don’t think that’s new information for anyone. But what you may not know is how to counteract it, considering most of us have desk jobs and/or commute to and from work, requiring us to sit for extended amounts of time! There are people out there who have jobs requiring them to stand all day – think about the checkout attendants at your local supermarket. They stand for most of their shift, but how good do you think their feet feel at the end of their day? Or their knees? Or their backs? So what we need is a happy medium – some sort of compromise between the two extremes of sitting all day and standing all day. There are plenty of tips out there on Ways To Stand More, which is a good start… but you need a solution to get through each day. One quick, easy and inexpensive solution is to swap the seat at your desk for a stool. A stool allows you to be perched, halfway between sitting and standing. On a stool, you can put one foot forward, one behind, reducing your likelihood of slouching back (as you would in a chair). Combined with the firm surface of a stool (as opposed to a padded office chair) this also gives you more feedback for your sitting bones (technical term: “ischial tuberosities” – the bony bits in your butt) allowing you to also put your pelvis in its neutral position. This way, you maintain the natural curve in your lumbar spine (lower back), which helps to set the foundation for your thoracic (upper back) and cervical spine (neck) to be in their correct, resting, “neutral” shape. This option starts to address the strain placed on your neck and lower back associated with slouching over your desk all day, but doesn’t do much to counteract the sitting time itself… To level up, you can opt for a desk which allows you to alternate between sitting and standing. You can either get a kit which allows you to convert your existing desk to an adjustable desk – switching between sitting and standing in a matter of seconds. Then the ultimate is to replace your regular desk with a sit-stand desk, again, allowing you to switch between sitting and standing across the day. Research has shown a reduction of approximately 1hr of sitting time per day can be equal to half as much neck and back pain, as well as improvement in mood – sounds pretty good, right?! Short of a career change, the reality for most people is a big chunk of their day will be spent in a fixed position – working at a desk, commuting, leisure time spent watching TV, reading or playing video games. So it’s important you find a solution or combination of strategies which work for you! See how much time you spend sitting here: SITTING TIME CALCULATOR   [1] [2]

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