Back in Action Blog

Is Sitting Too Much a Serious Hidden Health Issue?

Published on  – 4 minute read

Denmark was the first in Europe to make it law for employers to provide “sit-stand” desks to staff.

Standing up at work is not just the latest marketing gimmick; the Denmark government haven’t done this lightly.  The hope of ergonomists is that this will increase workers well-being, and even increase life expectancy.  Its estimated that 80 per Denmark’s workers can now use a “sit-stand” desk. 

Perhaps one to two per cent of workers in the UK get offered the same chance to protect themselves.  It’s a rising figure but still very low.

Lucinda Newbound, partner at ergonomics company Back In Action says “the last 20 years have seen changes here.  Prices have come down and reliability has gone up.   We used to specify Sit Stand just for senior management and Board Rooms, but now we are seeing a dramatic rise in sit-stand in offices and in homes.”

Its known in the industry that Winston Churchill used a special standing desk, along with Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Hemingway.   Victorian clerks also did their business standing up and moved around as a matter of course.

“People are sitting down at work, then sitting in the car and then sitting down in front of the television. Your metabolic rate crashes to an absolute minimum. It isn't natural. Humans are designed to stand up and keep moving.”
- Dr John Buckley

Health:

We live in the body of a Hunter Gatherer, yet spend most of each day sitting still.
Not surprisingly we experience reduced circulation. In particular our blood and lymph systems work more slowly.

By alternating your work between sitting and standing your body may at first feel a little tired, but it will be encouraged to get fitter, and after a few weeks those who mix sitting and standing in a balanced way report decreased back problems, extra vitality and less illness compared to those who work purely sitting down or purely standing.

Productivity:

There are two ways this is improved:
1st an increase in health and vitality allows you to function better,  2nd the ease with which one can move while standing means some tasks are performed more quickly. (try the simple task of assembling and posting a letter sitting vs. standing).

Fitness:

Our body is designed for variety and movement. When we sit all day, even in a Back in Action chair, our calorie burn is lower.

At Back in Action we estimate that most of our chairs increase activity and burn more calories by an estimated 20%, which leads to increased fitness and alertness. Add the extra calories used by active sit stand work and you'll be fitter and slimmer ( if your calorie intake stays the same.) Of course, you may not like to lose weight, in which case you could always go for the extra bun!

Is installing a desk a hassle?

Not at all, and according to Back In Action you will need to spend less on the chair compared to being healthy sitting down all day.    

Budget?    A reliable, sturdy 'last me 20 years' desk can be fully installed into your office from around £700.
You can also save money and use your existing desk top.

Is it suitable for everyone?

If in doubt, ask your medic!  Some leg conditions might argue against it for example.  Meantime Back In Action offer one quick test:   If you prefer the comfort of gentle, even brisk walking, to sitting down then your body is telling you something.  Choosing a moving chair and/ or Sit Stand desk will add the variety and exercise your body seems to want.

Sit Stand when Eating?

Where will it end:   Scandinavian Company Skovby believes it will soon be part of our dining rooms and kitchens.  They’ve launched an expanding table that can be used standing, with stools , or with conventional height chairs.

Alternatives:

Back In Action say that the next best thing to Sit Stand is to choose a backless, rocking, kneeling chair.  They say these make sure your spine is exercised all the time you are sitting and are popular for homework, home workers and seniors.