Artcraft Health: We Stand for Health

Gene S LyskoMedical writer and blogger

What do you do more than anything else?

Work? Sleep? Did you consider sitting? Sitting is so integrated into our routines that it probably didn’t enter your mind. We eat, commute, work, shop, and relax all while sitting down. Some people even exercise while sitting. Drive-through conveniences like banking, car washes, and coffee shops count towards sitting time, too. You just may sit more than anything else you do.

So what?

Most people sleep less than 8 hours each day; however, we typically sit more than 9 hours a day. Much of that time is spent while we “work.” That’s a lot of inactivity.

Scientific papers exploring the effects of inactivity or sedentary lifestyles on health have been published sporadically through history. The work gained momentum in the early 1970s. About 25 years later, the field of inactivity research emerged when researchers at the Mayo Clinic asked why people who consume the same number of calories as other people gain more weight. Simply put, the difference came down to activity.

People who moved around didn’t gain weight; people who just sat did gain weight. In fact, the research revealed that the people who put on the pounds sat 2 hours a day more than those people who didn’t gain weight.

 

 

It could really be this simple

Our bodies evolved to stand and move. Some of our largest bones and muscles are intended to propel us. They’re not meant to be seat cushions.

 

The gluteus maximus (your butt) is the largest muscle in the body.It’s large and powerful because it keeps the trunk of the body erect. It is the chief antigravity muscle that aids in walking and running, especially up stairs.

 

Sitting for long periods is known to be harmful. Dr James Levine (one of the Mayo Clinic researchers) says that sitting could be lethal. Sitting as well as general inactivity reduces the electrical activity in the leg muscles to almost nothing, resulting in a host of harmful metabolic effects:

  • The metabolic rate immediately falls off a cliff, and as a result, you won’t need all of the calories that you’ve consumed, which can lead to weight gain
  • Fat metabolism can decrease 90% in an hour, substantially dropping your HDL cholesterol level (the good cholesterol)
  • Insulin’s effectiveness deceases markedly over the course of a day

So why not stand?  

Of course, all of our ills can’t be blamed on sitting, but some of them can. Standing is an easy alternative to sitting. So stand up. Frequently.

And keep standing. Sitting at work hasn’t always been the rule. For most of our history, workers stood. And the machines and desks that we labored at were designed for standing. Much of that changed with advances in industry and technology, but the concept of Taylorism was most influential. Taylorism was a form of scientific labor management.

It espoused efficiency through control and shaped the late 19th century workplace. One way to control workers was to sit them at desks in large open areas where they could be confined and observed. Although Taylor’s methods have largely been resigned to the wastepaper basket, people continue to sit.

Reversing the trend

So many of us sit at work that work becomes a logical place to take a stand, but standing at work can be a challenge for both the employee and the employer.

Employees may not want to stand, and many of those who do may be incapable of doing it all day long. Others may feel odd and don’t want to stand out. Employers face the challenge of what to do with all those chairs and old-fashioned “sit” desks, and the cost of adjustable desks (sit-stand desks) can be substantial.

These challenges are not difficult to overcome. Employees who want to stand at work will, and they will add an hour of standing here and another hour there until sitting feels cramped and unhealthy. Sit-stand desks are critical, though, as they allow employees to change their habits as they grow accustomed to being on their feet.

Employers will have to lay out the cash for new desks, but the benefits of standing have been shown to include increased creativity and productivity, so employers who look at new office furniture as an investment rather than a cost won’t hurt their bottom line.

Standing at Artcraft Health

Artcraft Health encourages employee well-being by offering an in-house fitness center and by promoting health-related activities, such as the Walking Club. Moreover, Artcraft Health discarded our sit desks in favor of adjustable desks more than a year ago. I’ve been standing ever since. I feel better standing than when I sat all day long; especially in the late afternoon, when standing helps keep me at 100%. There is a down side: I find myself getting antsy in long meetings at sit tables and sometimes on weekends, too. If only movie theaters would get rid of those seats.