Updated: Mar 18
Standing desks all the rage - Though our shift towards computer based work is good for productivity, it’s terrible for health. Put simply, sitting is killing us. At least that’s what a plethora of studies suggest. From increased risk of heart disease and obesity to poor cholesterol biomarkers. In fact, the death rate for women who sit for more than 6 hours a day is 40% higher than their 3 hour a day or less counterparts and 20% higher for men.
(1) Body position really does matter. Some may surmise that an active lifestyle outside of their sitting habit will offset the damage. Nope. The negative consequences affect regular exercisers, as well. A pristine diet doesn’t even seem to make a difference. Sitting is an independent risk factor. (2) Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, surmises that the position of sitting sets off a cascade of metabolic processes. The electrical activity in the muscles drop, “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse”, Hamilton says. (3) This translates to a few things. Your calorie rate plunges to about 1 per minute, a third of what it would be if you simply got up and walked. This is partly due to the muscle you happen to be sitting on, the glutes (the largest muscle group), developing a sort of amnesia. Since our bodies are amazing adaptable machines the butt gets the signal that it’s no longer needed and quits firing. And kinda forgets how over time. So the potential to burn an appropriate amount of calories by properly using our glutes for everyday functional activities is altered. Also, insulin sensitivity drops 40% during the first day of prolonged sitting. If that continues, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes rises and obesity may follow with its own consequences.
(4) How can all this be? Apparently, the enzyme called lipoprotein lipase that breaks down and clears out lipids and triglycerides from the bloodstream turning it into energy plummets 10 fold which causes levels of HDL cholesterol to fall. (4) Here’s more bad news. Remember when your mother told you to stop frowning because your face would freeze that way? Well, the fascia that connects individual muscles to the rest of the body begins to set in whatever position you are in most. If you’re hunched over a keyboard all day, this eventually becomes your posture. And remember the glute amnesia? Weak glutes push your pelvis forward, putting stress on the spine causing back pain and belly protrusion, which is, well, just not very attractive. (5) Standing desks could be the answer. So we love out technology, there’s no going back. Aside from switching occupations your best alternative could be to use a stand up desk. The market for them is beginning to boom. Jim Gattuso, who owns the domain name standupdesks.com, started his business 17 years ago when he was suffering from back pain. He had custom made and sold 1 on the internet. It sold so fast he realized there must be a market for them.
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