The Importance of Moving as a Natural Part of the Workday
December 3rd, 2018Key Points
- People (workers or students) on average sit 3 to 8 hours a day.
- Prolonged sitting can cause injury, heart disease, and fatigue.
- Experts recommend standing 5 to 20 minutes each hour.
- Smart Sit-and-Stand Desks can reduce sitting time by up to 60 percent.
- Alerting and forcing them to use Smart Sit-and-Stand Desks and Workspace Fitness Devices multiplies its benefits.
- Using a Smart under-the-desk bike is good for the body movement
The human body is made to move, and for the first six million years,
humans either did (quickly and often), or they didn’t survive. Even
during agrarian times, people spent their days moving from one chore
to the next. Activity wasn’t built into life; it was life. Then came
the Industrial Revolution and the era of industry and, soon after,
Today, in an era of ideas in which the greatest value is derived from
creativity, many people sit much of the time. Nearly 50,000 adults
around the world reported they sit three to eight hours each
workday, with many of those in developed countries sitting more
than nine hours a day.1 Sitting and seldom moving, office workers
are therefore often drowsy, easily fatigued, and prone to injury.
Providing people with natural ways to move throughout their
workday can reverse these negative effects and contribute to
people’s overall health.
What We Know
Our bodies are made for movement. Standing and moving are
unique biological triggers that play a key role in being healthy.
Unfortunately, the sedentary life that many office workers have
adopted affects their health regardless of how much they eat or how
much they exercise. A study that followed 17,000 Canadians, ages
18 to 90, for 12 years showed that “daily time spent sitting was
associated with an elevated risk of all-cause and cardiovascular
disease mortality…independent of leisure time physical activity
levels and body mass index (BMI).”2
Sitting for extended time periods is linked with visual symptoms3,
high triglycerides4, obesity5, insulin resistance6,
cardiovascular disease7, and cancer8. Without regular and incidental standing and
walking, the activity of lipo-protein lipase, the enzyme that breaks
down plaque-causing fats in our blood, drops off significantly9.
Prolonged sitting has also been shown to result in increasing worker
discomfort over the course of the workday.10 And, research shows
an association between increasing discomfort and decreasing productivity,
as well as future pain.11 What’s more, the causal chain from prolonged,
immobile sitting to possible health risks exists even
when one sits in a highly adjustable, ergonomically supportive work chair.
If sitting all day poses such risks, some say the answer is to stand.
However, abandoning one’s chair to work all day at a stand-up
surface is associated with its own hazards: lower extremity
discomfort and fatigue, lower extremity swelling and venous pooling,
lower back pain, and entire body fatigue.12
A physical workload that’s too low (sitting all day) or too high
(standing all day) increases the risk of back pain. Ergonomists
recommend standing about five minutes out of every hour, with
some, such as James Mallon of Humantech, recommending up to
The risks associated with prolonged standing have prompted some
to propose methods for increasing walking time over the course of
the workday. Attempts have included combining a treadmill or a
bicycle with a work surface.
A third way is needed: because work requires sitting, standing, and
moving, the ideal landscape of the workplace would naturally afford
people choice among a variety of postures. The result is an
environment that is good for both mind and body.
The practice of alternating between sitting and standing at work has
been linked to increased HDL (good cholesterol)15, more frequent
muscle contractions,16 decreased incidence of breathing
difficulties17, and decreased swelling of the lower limbs.18
Sit-to-stand practices have also been linked with helping our bodies
properly express the genes necessary to build healthy muscle.19
Sit-to-stand work reduces low back discomfort20 and causes
significantly less discomfort compared to sitting-only work.21
Importantly, sit-to-stand working seems to show little or no decrease
in productivity overall compared to seated office work.22 As
discomfort decreases, in fact, productivity should increase.
A combination of sitting, standing, and moving over the course of
the workday—and not too much of any one activity—is the best
approach to managing the balance between postural risk and
physical comfort. Pairing a work landscape that includes postural
choices with education to help people learn how to listen to their
bodies equips them to make postural change a natural part of what
they do at work.
Summary: Get a Smart Sit-and-Stand Desk that forces you to sit, stand and repeat, many times a day!