You may have heard some recent scientific studies that coined “sitting as the new smoking.” While it is true that sitting for too long can be bad for your health, it’s not clear that the instinctive opposite reaction – to simply stand up for long periods of time – is the right answer. Let’s look at the facts.
Sitting too long is bad for you
What is it, exactly, about sitting for an entire work day, that is bad for us? You’re indicating “rest mode” to your body, so your calorie-burning rate goes down, as does your glucose uptake (as high as a 40% reduction). Over a period of time, this can put you at risk for diabetes. When sitting for long periods at a time is a lifestyle, something that you do day-in, day-out for weeks and months (and years) at a time, your body will increase fatty molecules and LDL cholesterol.
But so is standing too long
Ask anyone who has to spend all day on their feet at work, and they will tell you it is no fun. It puts pressure on your feet and lower back and while there is a marginal difference in calories burned by your body while standing as opposed to sitting, it’s not significant enough to warrant a change. Just as with sitting too much, there are health risks to standing too much: carotid arteries, varicose veins, and spinal compression.
So what’s the answer?
The answer is not to keep the same posture for too long. We all remember being told to “sit still” as a child and that discipline is still useful for ceremonies and special events. But, if you do work in which you sit for long portions of the day, you can do several things to combat the downsides of sitting all day.
- Firstly, don’t sit in the exact same posture all the time when working. Vary how and where you sit, and regularly get up for breaks to stand, stretch, and/or walk. This will keep your body from slipping into “rest” mode.
- Secondly, considering varying your in-person meetings to be standing, or even better, when the weather allows, walking. Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg are well-known to host nearly all their meetings in a walking format, as it has been known to increase creativity, communication, and engagement.
- Overall, while you may want to batch through and get as much work done when you are “in a groove,” it’s important to just take a little time away to break whatever position you’ve taken – sitting or standing – in order to give your body (and mind) time to reset. You’ll bring even more energy and creativity to your work when you return to it.
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