Sorting out sitting – before it kills me

There have been a number of articles in recent days about the dangers of sitting for long periods of the day, dangers that are serious and include a higher risk of death.

Global RainbowI, like many workers, spend much of my time sitting. If I’m working at home – I’m sitting at a desk. If I’m in the office – I’m sitting at a desk. If I’m in a meeting – I’m sitting at a table. Sitting, sitting, sitting. I’ve written before about my experiences with tension headaches which are primarily caused by issues of posture – posture while sitting. While these headaches are mostly under control, I’ve not yet managed to change my lifestyle sufficiently for me to remove all medicinal support, so sitting is still a problem.

Tom Ferris has a great post summarising the emerging evidence that inactivity, and sitting specifically, is a problem, but also what one organisation did to combat the problem.

Recent research suggests that those who sit from 9-5 (more than 6 hours daily) and exercise regularly are more likely to have heart disease than those who sit less than 3 hours per day and don’t “exercise” at all.

It’s a great shopping list of ideas including:

  • Standing desks
  • Exercise balls
  • Balance cushions
  • Monitors stands
  • Ergonomic keyboard
  • Ergonomic mice
  • Hand grippers
  • Wobble boards
  • Pedometers
  • Shoe options
  • Conference room and meeting configurations
  • Office layout
  • Food and snacks

The important point for me is that good office configurations have a direct payback in terms of productivity. We’ve known this for a long time, and yet many organisations continue to build facilities that have barely changed since the advent of the Personal Computer.

A small number of offices across the country have slowly begun to endorse the idea of exercising during work (e.g. walking on a treadmill while doing your job at Mutual of Omaha). Besides the obvious fitness benefits, exercise also increases productivity (according to research done by the Vermont Board of Education — PDF download).

Most surprising of all, remaking the workplace into a healthy, exercise-supportive environment has a cost benefit. Many of the design changes we have implemented cost little or nothing.

But it’s not just about gadgets, it’s also about culture. There are limits to what I can personally influence, especially in the office, but even then I don’t do what I know is good for me. It’s a change I am having to learn to make though. Which reminds me, I haven’t done my stretches yet today and perhaps it’s time to order an exercise ball.

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