Wendy McCubbin, Sr. Manager, Workspace Wellness @ Ergotron
Ahhh… it’s the question of the day – to sit, or to stand? While there are differing opinions, l love that the conversation continues, helping us in our cause to create awareness on the dangerous, sometimes deadly effects of sedentary work environments and sitting disease!
First, THANK YOU Cornell University, specifically the faculty and staff at CUErgo, for contributing to the sit versus stand conversation last week in your posting, “Sitting and Standing at Work” linking to research led by Professor Alan Hedge, Cornell University, Design & Environmental Analysis, in 2004.
Thanks also to LifeHacker, HackerNews and most recently, TreeHugger for picking up on the posting and drawing more people into the conversation. At times, I’ve enjoyed reading the comments almost as much as the postings!
For those of you who’ve not yet read it, the CUErgo posting identifies the perils of sitting and of standing and concludes that periodic acts of movement is all that’s needed to give our bodies the replenishment they need.
The study they reference dates back to 2004 though, and there is a mounting evidence of more current research identifying the dangers associated with long periods of sitting “to do computer work” and which support the need for sit-stand work environments.
Healthier alternatives to fixed or even height-adjustable workspaces have evolved so much since then!
This is why Ergotron launched the Just Stand Wellness Uprising in 2010, a causal campaign designed to educate workers from around the world about the dangers imposed by our sedentary work environments and that healthy workspace options to avoid sitting disease do exist!
But creating an Uprising is a hell of an undertaking, which is why we’re happy you’ve all contributed to the conversation with your postings… and we look forward to more of it!
Sitting too much IS deadly
As a self-proclaimed sit-stand evangelista, I’m jazzed that you all continue to contribute to the awareness through your postings, drawing more attention to an important issue—sitting too much is deadly.
Research claims that we are spending nearly 77% of our day just sitting, so as CUErgo points out, the peril of sitting “…for more than 1 hour has been shown to induce biochemical changes in lipase activity (an enzyme involved in fat metabolism) and in glucose metabolism that leads to the deposit of fats in adipose tissue rather than these being metabolized by muscle, and extensive sitting also relates to heart disease risks, so people are advocating standing to work because this use more muscle activity (burns about 20% more calories). These changes happen in both fit people who regularly aerobically work out and also unfit and obese people, so regular exercise doesn’t address this.”
“It’s not just how much physical activity you get, but how much time you spend sitting that can affect your risk of death.”
Clearly, the physiological and biochemical reactions defined by CUErgo as a peril to sitting might be contributors to the shocking discovery published in 2009 by Dr. Alpa Patel and the American Cancer Society who, after observing over 123,000 individuals between 1993 and 2006, found a link between “More Time Spent Sitting to Higher Risk of Death.”
In their research, Dr. Patel and the American Cancer Society determined “it’s not just how much physical activity you get, but how much time you spend sitting that can affect your risk of death.” In it, researchers concluded that time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level.
Are the theories summarized in the posting by CUErgo wrong? Not entirely.
While CUErgo seems to question the health benefits of standing, it is interesting to note that Professor Hedge summarized, “There is good evidence to indicate that adjustable furniture that can support sit-stand working may be beneficial to the health and performance of office workers.”
And this summarization is shared by medical experts, ergonomists, and researchers from around the world who provide an important holistic view of the very real dangers of sitting disease and who advocate the need to do away with the sedentary work routines we’ve been forced to work within.
Research has established that the act of standing increases blood flow, metabolic rates and caloric burn while improving focus, energy and productivity and will reduce the stiffness, discomfort and aches commonly associated with computing and long periods of sitting. There is even mounting evidence that increased energy and focus associated with sit-stand options impact productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness in a significant way.
We need never be sentenced to our office chair again!
We agree, CUErgo, standing all day can be unhealthy! That’s why we advocate a healthy blend of sitting and standing and to give individuals the option to sit and stand whenever, and for as long as, they choose—in doses that are comfortable for them. But indeed, they need the option.
Unlike the electronic height-adjustable workstations you observed in the 2004 research, what’s exciting for businesses and consumers today is access to a growing list of affordable, height-adjustable, wellness enhancing products that are as easy to adjust from a seated to a standing position as, well, simply standing is. Today’s knowledge worker need never be sentenced to their office chair again.
The interesting thing about the 2004 study is that it claimed the 33 people they observed were “self-assessed with musculoskeletal discomfort.” In the 2011 JourneyWell Take A Stand project, 16 of the participants claimed no health issues prior to access to a sit-stand workstation. After the units were removed? Nearly ALL claimed some level of discomfort when forced to return to their sit-only, sedentary work routine!
It says to me that the average office worker may be completely unaware of how uncomfortable they are and even more unaware of how dangerous long periods of sitting can be.
So the perils may instead lie in not adopting sit-stand workstation options. And with prices ranging from only $400 to $1000, consumers are no longer shut off from being able to afford it! The beauty is: the sophistication of the technology enabling easy sit-stand adjustability has advanced significantly from the electronic desks of the Cornell Study.
Here’s an invitation Cornell!
Our invitation to Cornell remains the same as one that other leading researchers around the globe have already accepted—let Ergotron be a part of your next sit-stand research!
There is so much more to learn and definitely so much to gain. Plus, our lives are depending on it.
On a final note, I wouldn’t be completely fulfilling my duties as a sit-stand evangelista if I didn’t attempt to contribute to the conversation and the collaboration we’ve established this week, so of all the research that currently exists, here’s my top ten.
Pssst LifeHacker, you made it … twice!
WorkFit Wendy’s Top Ten “Take a Stand” references
- Leisure Time Spent Sitting in Relation to Total Mortality in a Prospective Cohort of US Adults Journal of Epidemiology (April 2010)
- Sitting Time & Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease & Cancer Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2009) Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute
- Your Body’s Biggest Enemy The dangers of living a sedentary life: Learn how to ward off the nasty effects of a new epidemic called Sitting Disease (September 2011)
- Excessive Sitting Linked to Premature Death in Women USAToday (August 2011)
- Calories Burned By Standing Up eHow Health (okay, okay, no date given, but it seems really current, does that count?)
- The Many Benefits of Standing at Your Desk Harvard Business Review (August 2010)
- Prolonged Sitting Causes Disease, Standing Fights it LifeHacker (11/19/07)
- The “Sitting Is Killing You” Infographic Shows Just How Bad Prolonged Sitting Is LifeHacker (05/11/11)
- Physical Inactivity Linked to Increased Risk for Chronic Disease University of Missouri (August 2011)
…. and my absolute favorite? Drumrolllllllllllllllll, please….
10. Study: Standing and Sitting at Work Improves Health, Happiness of Workers PR Newswire (08/01/11)