Why Sitting Is Killing You
Wow, that’s a pretty heavy introduction isn’t it?
Well it may be, but it’s true. Let me explain why…
Human’s are the most evolved creature on the planet. Every part of our design is a response to who we have needed to function in the past 200 000 years. We’re talking everything from our muscles, bones, circulatory & nervous systems.
In fact if I ask you think of one picture which is synonymous with the word ‘evolution’ i bet almost all of us will come up with the same thing…that classic timescale picture of a chimp evolving in to man and going from a crouched posture to standing up.
So what that picture is telling is is that it may have taken 200 000 years, but we finally got to where we can stand. Hooray!
Now, realising this let me bring to your attention someone thing absolutely crazy!
How long do we spend standing as compared to sitting? Well think about the average office worker working 9-5 Mon- Fri. A daily routine would go something like this:
6:30am: Wake up.
6:45 - 7:30: Eat breakfast (sitting down).
8am: Drive or catch public transport to work (siting down).
9-5: Work (sitting down).
5pm: Drive/catch public transport home (sitting down).
6:30 - Bed time: Eat dinner/watch TV (sitting down).
So essentially we spent 200 000 years learning how to finally stand, and now we do our very best to sit down as much as we can. Seems a bit silly right? Perhaps we all got a bit lazy after all those years.
This evolutionary process didn’t involve the use of chairs. For most of that time chairs weren't invented so we either stood, or we crouched down on to our haunches. This is how our body is designed to function. If we look at out muscles, they’re constantly working (in a good way). This helps to burn calories, keep your circulation pumping, keeps your muscles strong, works your proprioceptors (the nerves which sense your spatial awareness) as well as keeping your joints & bones functioning and strong.
The Consequences of Sitting
What sitting does is it STOPS YOUR BODY FROM WORKING PROPERLY. Firstly chairs make you lazy. You don’t need to be strong because the chair is holding you up. Your core muscles get weak, some major muscles like your hamstrings and hip flexors become shortened, and your posture goes out the window. Your circulation also slows down for 2 reasons: Your muscles aren’t doing all these small posture adjusting contractions anymore which assist your blood flow, and the chair is compressing the back of your legs which is where the majority of your lower limb blood vessels are. You don’t really need to work your proprioceptors anymore because you chair is holding you up, and your joints are in a static position for most of the day. Probably the most visually obvious side effect according is weight gain.
In 2009 a 13 year study concluded which looked at the consequences of sitting down for various portions of the day. It found that sitting down was an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, just like smoking is. The scary part is that if you spend almost all of your waking day sitting, you are at an incredible 54% more likely to die form a heart attack!
They used to say that to counteract these effects that you should do some exercise at the end of the day. Now the research is pointing to the fact that you can’t really counteract the damage which is done by sitting down all day. A better approach is to actually have regular periods where you stand up and move, even if for a short time.
A 2011 study shows that just 2 mins of walking every half hr is better than brisk 30 mins at the end of the day.
Standing Up Will Help You Lose Weight.
It’s not rocket science, really. Think about all those things that sitting down all day does. It makes perfect sense that improved circulation, more muscle contractions and stronger muscles will help you lose weight. Recent research indicates that using a standing desk for a year will help you shed 4kg, with no other changes in your life. Pretty amazing huh?
In light of all this information there is a recent push to create more of a standing environment in the office.
The idea of a standing desk may seem a bit radical for most people, and even when fully explained that their back pain will improve by standing up all day people still don’t want to do it. Maybe it’s a fear of standing out being the only one in the office standing up or maybe we’re just pre conditioned to thinking that standing up will make us tired. Who knows. Either way I think that these kind of changes need to be proactively implemented from management before it becomes a widely accepted practice.
Some big companies such as Facebook and Google now offer the option of using a standing desk for all their staff.
As it turns out it’s actually not such a new concept. Many famous people in history have used such a thing: Leonardo DaVinci, Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Woolf, Napoleon Bonaparte and Sir Winston Churchill to name a few.
Now that you understand why standing up is so much better for you, check out these standing desks.
The Kinetic Desk
Finally, here’s a fantastic website telling you all you need to know about converting to a standing desk. If you’re really keen on the idea of converting to a standing desk, have a look at some reviews of the best standing desks here.
By Rhys Donovan
Owner and Osteopath of Biomechanics Healthcare
Disclaimer: This information is intended as a guide only and not to be taken as proper advice for anyone's specific condition. Always seek professional advice first before attempting to treat your injuries/condition.