Friday, October 2, 2015

Reddy on the Secret Dangers of Sitting—and Standing

In the September 28, 2015, edition of The Wall Street Journal, Sumathi Reddy discusses the dangers of sedentary work habits—and the hidden risks of standing desks. Excerpt:
Studies have found that sedentary behavior, including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Some ergonomics experts warn that too much standing also can have negative effects on health, including a greater risk for varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease.

“The key is breaking up your activity throughout the day,” said Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. “Sitting all day and standing all day are both bad for you,” he said.

For every half-hour working in an office, people should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes and then move around and stretch for two minutes, Dr. Hedge recommends, based on a review of studies that he has presented at corporate seminars and expects to publish. He says standing for more than 10 minutes tends to cause people to lean, which can lead to back problems and other musculoskeletal issues.
Read the whole thing. Back in the day (and I mean about 30 years ago), my father had a Swiss client who absolutely swore by his standing desk. Since then, such salutary accoutrements have almost become mainstream. Several genre writers have publically praised writing on one’s feet. So imagine my disappointment when I had to abandon my own makeshift standing desk after only a few uses. Why? Shooting pains in my knees. (Curse you, high school sports injury!). Abominable aches in my feet. (Drat those high arches!) Now, though, I feel somewhat better knowing that standing all the time causes its own health issues—some of them serious.

For what it’s worth, dear reader, allow me to offer my own regime for remaining at least a little active in the writing life. I keep a Pomodoro app running on my phone (although you can easily employ it with any timer if you’d prefer a more low-tech solution), and whenever a break rolls around, I pick up a pair of dumbbells beside my desk. Five minutes is more than enough time to pound out a quick set each of curls, front raises, lateral raises, tricep extensions, sitting reverse flies, and pushups. (Working at home has its advantages, such as no one watching you look faintly ridiculous as you huff and puff around your desk.) I’m not exactly swinging steel or breaking a sweat, just maintaining muscle tone while moving around. According to Dr. Hedge, it just may prolong my life.

(Picture: CC 2011 by Garret Voight)


pattinase (abbott) said...

MY grandmother never walked so much as a block in her life. She sat all day long, watching mindless TV. She especially favored golf matches. Her diet was almost entirely red meat and dairy. She was always twenty pounds overweight. She lived to be 91. It wasn't genes because both her parents died in their fifties. So what was it?

Loren Eaton said...

There are always outliers, aren't there? Contrast your grandmother with my father, a guy who was fastidious about nutrition and exercise--and got a brain tumor in his early seventies. You just never know. There are some many variables when it comes to the human body.