You'd better sit down for this news. On second thought, maybe you had better stand up.
Previous studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time, such as working at a desk, can be detrimental to your health. One study, in fact, called it more dangerous than smoking.
But perhaps you thought you could compensate for that by going to the gym after work or taking part in athletic activities on the weekend. Not so, say two new studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and Diabetologia, a diabetes journal.
Activity levels mattered little
The studies looked at people who spend long hours sitting at a desk, mostly for work activities. Some of the people led very sedentary lives but others maintained a moderate to high level of physical activity during their non-sitting time. The researchers were surprised to find that the health results were not all that different.
Scientists have determined that after just an hour of sitting, the body's production of enzymes that burn fat plunges dramatically. Sitting for extended periods of time can slow your metabolism rate and reduce levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood. That could be a precursor to type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Cardiologists say your body doesn't burn as many calories when you are seated. Your body goes into storage mode and stops working at peak efficiency. Standing up, even if you aren't moving about, helps.
It's no secret that the rise in obesity has coincided with more sedentary jobs, prompting some workplaces to offer on-site health sites where workers on break can exercise. But the key to improving the health of desk bound workers, health experts say, is to get them to stand up.
Office furniture is changing
It's not surprising, then, that office furniture designers and manufacturers have begun turning out a wide array of “upright” workstations, where an employee stands before an elevated work surface containing the computer monitor, keyboard and mouse. Most are adjustable so they can be modified to the height of the individual user.
Many businesses have begun offering stand-up workstations to their employees and some even sit astride a slow-moving treadmill. A worker standing at a desk can slowly walk several miles during an average workday.
The business sees it as an investment in employee health, resulting in fewer sick days and expensive medical treatment later on. For the employee, it may be an easy way to help with weight control while on the job.