Much has been in the media lately about the dangers of sitting… or more accurately, the danger of not being active. Computers and other screen devices have brought our lives to a grinding halt, literally. We sit, slouch, and lie more than we stand and walk; as a result, our health and mortality are paying the price.
Sedentary time – Biswas et al – January 2015
Research out of Toronto, Canada has discovered that sedentary behavior has been associated with:
- A 15 to 20 % higher risk of death from any cause;
- A 15 to 20 % higher risk of heart disease, death from heart disease, cancer, death from cancer;
- As much as a 90 per cent increased risk of developing diabetes;
… and for the worst news, this is all after adjusting for regular exercise.
But all is not lost! There are many opportunities for increasing your activity during the day, all of which are quite easy to do. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Move around often when sitting – change position, straighten and bend your joints, fidget, anything that is movement;
- Walk every hour and stand every 20 minutes;
- Use a sit-stand desk – sit for 45 minutes and stand for 15 every hour;
- Stand and/or walk during meetings, phone calls, while reading documents, or any time you can;
- Take the stairs whenever you can during your day;
- Walk or bike to work;
- Park your car in the furthest parking spot;
- Use your lunch hour to do something fun – take a kickboxing or Zumba class, get a walking group going, window shop without stopping;
- Do a stretch for every body part each hour of your day;
- Get up every second commercial when watching TV;
- Walk your dog every night – or borrow somebody else’s!
If you have any other ideas for movement, please share below. Everyone can benefit from a more active life.
Lately I’ve been seeing many articles about people who have stopped using their office desk when working at the computer. But instead of a standing workstation, these people have gone one step – or many steps further – by using a treadmill while working. Ergonomically speaking, is this good? Let’s look at a few pros and cons:
- Sitting more than four hours a day can decrease life expectancy by 48% (Screen-Based Entertainment Time, All-Cause Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events; Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, MSc, BSc, Mark Hamer, PhD, MSc, BSc, andDavid W. Dunstan, PhD, BAppSc, Journal of the American College of Cardiology; http://content.onlinejacc.org/cgi/content/full/57/3/292?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=screen+time&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT)
- Activity is better than rest for acute low back pain (Evaluation and Treatment of Acute Low Back Pain; SCOTT KINKADE, M.D., M.S.P.H., University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas; http://journals.dev.aafp.org/XML-journal-files/afp/2007/0415/afp20070415p1181.pdf)
- Sustained activity during the day burns more calories (The energy expenditure of using a “walk-and-work” desk for office workers with obesity; James A Levine, Jennifer M Miller, Endocrine Research Unit, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota, USA; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2465387/?tool=pmcentrez)
- Computer task performance is lower when walking and slightly lower when cycling, compared with chair sitting (The Effects of Walking and Cycling Computer Workstations on Keyboard and Mouse Performance; Leon Straker, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia; James Levine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; Amity Campbell, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia; http://hfs.sagepub.com/content/51/6/831.short)
- Compared with sitting, treadmill walking caused a 6% to 11% decrease in measures of fine motor skills and math problem solving, but did not affect selective attention and processing speed or reading comprehension (Effect of using a treadmill workstation on performance of simulated office work tasks: John D, Bassett D, Thompson D, Fairbrother D, Baldwin D; Dept of Exercise, Sport, and Leisure Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxille, USA; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19953838)
- Productivity may lower. In a study with transcriptionists, it was found the speed of transcription lowered by 16% while walking on a treadmill (Productivity of transcriptionists using a treadmill desk; Warren G. Thompson, James A. Levine; Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA; http://iospress.metapress.com/content/p336717854509745/)
Personally I am reluctant to recommend a treadmill desk. This is primarily because of balance and safety reasons, but also due to the possibility that cognition and productivity are affected. But the research is conflicting and more studies need to be done, especially with regards to complex tasks and problem solving. I certainly can’t ignore the fact that more physical activity during the day improves health. For this reason alone, it is important to keep evaluating the treadmill desk as a viable option for the future.