Is Your Work Too Sedentary for Your Health?
Recent studies show that adults sit on average 10-12 hours a day, with most of that time spent sitting behind a desk. While our minds may be getting a great workout, studies show that sitting too much can lead to major health problems including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, and even death.
When I first became an ergonomist, I placed the printer, keyboard, phone and stapler all within an arm’s reach. Today, based on the sedentary nature of the job, I’m putting the printer in the next room, hoping it forces the user to stand up and walk to retrieve their printed pages. I encourage drinking lots of water so the need to get up and walk to the bathroom increases throughout the day!
Contrary to what you may think, sitting too much isn’t the only issue. Holding any single position for long periods of time is dangerous and can have negative effects on health as well. What’s hurting us is the lack of movement and activity throughout the day.
The basic point of the recent research is that we must keep moving and alternating our positions while at work. One solution employers have to consider is the sit-stand workstation, a device that allows alternating between sitting and standing at a desk. But how does an employer figure out where to begin implementing this kind of solution?
Here are a few facts to consider about sit/stand workstations:
- Transitioning from a properly configured seated workstation to a sit-stand workstation needs to be seamless and alternated throughout the day. The device chosen should make it easy to simply push the chair back and raise the work surface with minimal effort.
- Look for units that raise the entire desk area. If you only consider units that raise the height of the keyboard and tray but leave the monitor in a seated work position, it will be too low and force a forward bending posture.
- Treadmill and bicycle desks create a wide range of liability issues and are not recommended.
- Novelty item? If you are worried that employees will embrace them at first and once the novelty wears off they won’t be used, consider providing a few sit/stand workstations in empty cubicles around the office. If you find the staff embraces the sit/stand station, then consider purchasing for all.
- Sit-stand workstations have a positive impact on reducing musculoskeletal discomfort and improving health. Remember, prolonged sitting or prolonged standing can result in musculoskeletal fatigue, discomfort, joint damage, low back pain, pain in the feet, hips and legs.
The bottom line is this—alternating between sitting, standing, and moving throughout the day is recommended for better health and reduced risk of injury.