Over the last several months, there’s been a surge of stories on the negative health effects of sitting. Recent studies have shown that taking a seat for too long can shorten your life span, increase your risk of cardiovascular problems and diabetes, and contribute to obesity later in life.
And people are listening, according to an article in The Boston Globe.
While some stand up on their commute, others have opted for desks where they can stand, walk or even cycle in place while they work. At restaurants, some patrons are standing at the bar rather than sitting at a table.
Recent studies behind the trend include one from the October edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine that estimated that every hour a person sits watching TV takes 22 minutes off his life.
“TV viewing time may be associated with a loss of life that is comparable to other major chronic disease risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity,” the researchers wrote.
Still other studies show that gym time cannot undo the damage caused by hours of sitting, piquing the interest of people with an active lifestyle.
The news has been picked up by many media organizations, including Businessweek (“Kill Your Desk Chair — and Start Standing”) and Forbes (“Get Up, Stand Up, For Your Life: Can Standing Desks Fight Sitting Disease?”). The prevalence of articles may be the reason why the information has reached and influenced so many readers.
The trend is also sparking innovation.
For those who want to clock their sitting time, there is now an online tool by Ergotron, the company that makes sit-stand desks and other furniture. Ergotron’s sitting-time calculator estimates a user’s risk for “sitting disease,” a term the company acknowledges that the “medical community does not recognize...as a diagnosable disease at this time.”
However, the solution may not be prolonged standing, as this can also lead to health problems, Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, told The Boston Globe. Risk factors for standing include varicose veins and increased chance of stroke in people with heart disease.
“In our field studies of sit-stand workstations we have found little evidence of widespread benefits, and users only stand for very short-periods—15 minutes or less total per day,” Hedge said. Other studies show that treadmill or bicycle workstations decrease computer work performance.
So what's the solution?
The ideal scenario, according to Hedge, is that people sit while doing computer work, but rise every 20 minutes to move around for a few minutes.