What did you do today? A typical weekday might involve eight hours of work or school, driving the car to errands and appointments, eating a couple meals and watching some television.
What do all of those every day activities have in common? We do all of them sitting down. The average person rests on their laurels well over 6 hours a day, a sedentary trend that could be killing us. This is especially disturbing when you think about kids who are being raised to spend most of their lives — school and play — in a seated position. Too much sitting has been linked to the onset of such diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
That’s why an Australian middle school recently became the world’s first standing classroom. Instead of being hunched over desks for a good portion of the day, these 6th graders will now complete assignments at height-adjustable desks. These modern workspaces allow the pupils to sit or stand, as part of an experiment by Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute researchers.
In a press release, Mont Albert Primary School principal Sharon Saitlik said students, parents and teachers had embraced the project
“Those boys that can tend to fidget and get distracted easily have been more engaged,” Ms Saitlik said. “Even though they are only standing in preference to sitting it gives them the space they sometimes require.”
And it’s not limited to kids. Too much sitting carries the same health risks for adults, and then some. “Sitting increases your chances for developing diabetes , cardiovascular disease, and blood clots or thrombosis,” writes Chris Adams. ”Men who sit more than 6 hours a day have a 20% higher mortality rate. Women have a 40% higher mortality rate. What’s more, studies have also shown that regular exercise does not counteract the effects of prolonged sitting.”
But how does one reduce sitting time, especially at work? Isn’t that what work means — sitting at a desk and pounding on a keyboard all day? It doesn’t have to. As the Australian experiment shows, standing desks are becoming more mainstream, and more companies are willing to provide them if you ask. Google offers standing desks as part of its employee-wellness program, and the more than 250 Facebook employees that use standing desks report more energy and increased productivity.
Worried about how many years excessive sitting has taken off your life? Now’s the time to STAND UP and do something about it.
1. If you work for a traditional employer, pitch a standing desk in terms of productivity and energy. Show them this real world study which proves that employees who can stand for a good portion of the work day get more done.
2. If you work in a cubicle farm, one head standing above the rest could be viewed as weird or slightly disruptive. Adjustable height desks, like those utilized by the Australian school, can do double duty: extended to a standing position for a few hours, and returned to ground level when it’s time to have a mini meeting.
3. If your boss still won’t play ball, realize that you don’t necessarily need a standing desk to sit less. Decide that while performing certain tasks — like making calls, proofreading copy, watching a webinar — you’ll stand up. Just those extra minutes will make a big difference.
4. If you’re the master of your own domain (i.e. self-employed or a remote worker), realize that it’s fairly easy to fashion your own standing desk without spending a ton of cash. Here’s one you can make for $22. You can also consider moving the laptop to your kitchen island or breakfast bar for a few hours a day.
5. If you can’t stand to stand, just move. Set an hourly minute timer on your phone, and every time it goes off, stand up and stretch. You might also touch your toes a few times, or do a few squats. Just 60 seconds of movement every hour will break the monotony for your muscles, and help ward off sitting’s worse consequences.
Image via Thinkstock
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