The "sitting disease"

Many of us have become accustomed to being peppered with warnings about the dangers of being overweight, the silent killers like diabetes and heart disease, and the many foods that aren’t good for us. And just when we thought we had figured it out, there’s a new kid in town – the “Sitting Disease”.

“Sitting Disease” has become the buzz word when referring to the side effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and sadly this is now defined as any person who spends the majority of their day sitting down.

You may think that you don’t have a sedentary lifestyle, but the unfortunate fact is that as we have become more reliant on technology, we have also become more sedentary. 

Does this describe you? You spend the better part of an hour driving to and from work.  You sit in front of a computer for six to eight hours a day, only rising as you grab a coffee and some lunch.  You get home and relax in front of the television or computer and maybe if you made the time, you spent an hour at the gym. And this isn’t even counting the number of hours we spend sleeping. As you can see, it is not uncommon to clock 10-12 hours on our derrieres every day!

Why do we care about this “sitting disease”?  Recent evidence suggests that having a high level of sedentary behaviour (aka an office job) negatively impacts our health independent of other factors including body weight, diet, and physical activity. The statistics are still coming out, but here are some current tidbits:

  • “An 18% increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease for every hour of television you watch per day”
  •  “People with sedentary jobs are more likely to develop obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), osteoporosis and some cancers (breast and bowel)"
  • “There is a link between low activity and a greater risk of dementia, depression and impaired physical function in the elderly”

 

Here is the unfortunate truth – even if you exercise daily and have a healthy diet and weight, but have a desk job, you’re likely in the dog house! But don’t despair, there are some tricks you can employ to get your butt out of your chair without impeding your work.

Some offices are now equipped with treadmill workstations allowing employees to walk while working on their computers or talking on the phone. Studies have shown that employees using these workstations on a regular basis take less sick days, have healthier weight, have lower blood pressure, and feel better overall, which is great for both the employer and employee.  But if you don’t have access to a treadmill workstation there are many small things you can do to keep moving during your day. 

  • Schedule walking meetings.  Walk around the block or around your building or office instead of sitting in a boardroom
  • If you must be in a boardroom, stand up during the meeting
  • Alternate between sitting on a ball and a chair in your office.  Change position every half hour
  • Get yourself a standing workstation
  • Take a few stairwell breaks during your day
  • Use the phone/email less – get up and speak to your coworkers in person instead of sending notes. 

Sherpa recently purchased a patented unit called a Varidesk to take its first step in dealing with “Sitting Disease”.  A special desktop sits on top of a pre-existing desk and can be raised easily to a standing height that is comfortable for different users of different heights.  This will be a community workstation for anyone in the office to use! 

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- Laura McArthur  
    

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