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The Dangers Of A Sedentary Lifestyle, But The Solution Is Simple

Jen Slack's picture
Work station and sedentary Lifestyle

The human body was designed for movement. Unfortunately, too many of us these days are sedentary, especially those with desk jobs. Also, unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to some severe health complications.


Statistics gathered by The American Heart Association, reveal that physical inactivity significantly increases the risk for serious health problems like diabetes, hypertension, colon cancer, depression, anxiety, obesity and weak muscles and bones. Generally speaking, those who are active simply outlive those who are inactive. The message is clear. Move more, sit less to help avoid some of these serious problems.

From the AHA's Scientific Statement

Even those who get the recommended amount of daily exercise, can still be at risk for problems.

Director of behavioral research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena , Deborah Rohm Young, Ph.D., who also chaired the new scientific statement, explains “Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels.”

But What If I Exercise Regularly?

Even those who exercise regularly are still at risk from having the majority of their time spent in a sedentary fashion.

What Sedentary Really Means

When we hear sedentary, we may get the image of a couch potato who rarely moves from his spot except to go the fridge or the bathroom. While that may be the average person's definition, more importantly, how does the AHA define sedentary? "Sedentary behaviors include sitting, reclining, or laying down while awake as well as reading, watching television or working on the computer. These “inactive activities” mean energy expenditure is less than or equal to 1.5 metabolic equivalents, or METs". Okay, our vision of the couch potato is correct. Next question, how long can we spend being sedentary in the course of the day, to maintain good health?

In this article from the Mayo Clinic , a study defining the line between a healthy amount of sitting and unhealthy is likely different than you might think. The study looked at the amount of time spent in front of a TV or other screen related devise, on their recreational time only. The two catagories were 1) those who spent less than 2 hours and those who spent more than 4 hours, although the traditional risk factors, like smoking or high blood pressure did not come into play.

Those who fell into the 'more than 4 hours' catagories, were twice as likely for risk of death from any cause, and 125 percent more at risk for cardiovascular disease or heart attack. Remember, this study is about recreational time. Never mind the time we spend at work.

Other Health Issues From Sitting Too Much

In addition to the serious health risks mentioned above, other problems associated with sitting to much often occur.

For those who work at desk on a computer or phone, it's common to hold your neck and head forward, which can lead to strained neck, shoulder and back strain, and imbalances.

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When you sit, there is more pressure on your spine than when you stand, and this is compounded if you are sitting in a hunched position. This can lead to various back problems. The discs in your back, with proper use, expand and contract. However, these discs are compressed and can even lose flexibility and can lead to various problems, including herniated disks, weak abdominal muscles, hip problems and weakened glutes. Due to decreased circulation from sitting, varicose veins can occur which can lead to blood clots. Due to the lack of weight bearing while sitting, the lack of activity can cause weak bones and possibly osteoporosis.

It Is Simple - Stand More Sit Less

So simply standing more, and sitting less, can significantly reduce your risk factors for many serious and non threatening health issues. Those who have active jobs, like mail delivery people, retail employees, factory workers or coaches seem to have an advantage, especially over those who have desk jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends about nine hours at work, five days a week, totaling about 45 hours. .

That's a long time to be sitting at a desk.

It's not as simple as advising the office worker to get up and walk around a lot. That is not practical to the disciplined employee with a work ethic.

A Brilliant Solution to A Common Problem

Desks that adjust to the standing position, however, are a brilliant solution that more and more savvy employers are willing to invest in.

A June 2017 report from the Society for Human Resources Management, revealed that standing desks, (or adjustable desks), are now the fasted growing workplace employee benefit in the USA. Forty-four percent of the HR professionals said the the companies they representing were either providing or subsidizing the desks, up from 13 percent from 2013.

Jason McCann, co-founder and CEO of VARIDESK, the global leader in workspace innovation solutions, recognizes a common theme among the thousands of organizations and individuals that purchase VARIDESK products. People care deeply about the wellbeing of their employees. What is also becoming apparent are the tangible and intangible benefits an active workspace can have compared to a traditional office environment.

He says, “organizations that adopt active work spaces are seeing their entire culture shift as collaboration and creativity are replacing more solid thinking and work styles. When you consider that when employees are out for health reasons, small businesses see a 40 percent drop in productivity and larger ones see a 29 percent decline, wellness starts to make real business sense. Individuals and organizations that adopt active work spaces are becoming happier, healthier and more productive, which ultimately gives them a serious competitive edge.”

VARIDESK headquarters, based in Coppell, Texas, in it of itself is an active workspace. McCann explains, “The VARIDESK office is an active workspace laboratory where we create, test and perfect current and future products. Our employees are engaged, they’re collaborative, they’re focused and they’re driven. The level of engagement and activity at VARIDESK is no accident – it is all by design.”

Beyond Design, Wellness Initiatives Are Being Encouraged

Beyond design, offering wellness and activity opportunities doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. A wellness initiative could be as easy as encouraging employees to take a walk during meetings, offering fitness reimbursements or investing in products such as sit-stand desks, ergonometric chairs and other products that enhance employee health. Wellness programs also impact employee retention and recruitment. Wellness programs offer a glimpse into an employer's commitment to their employee's health, presenting an indication of a commitment to their employee's growth and wellbeing. Wellness is no longer a novelty perk.

Retaining employees with wellness is real. Companies should harness HR department expertise to promote the culture brand internally to current employees and externally to influence future employees. The best way to associate a company's brand with compassion and caring is to offer a wellness program.

Are you an employee with a desk job who is concerned about potential problems associated with the sedentary lifestyle? Does your company offer you the opportunity to support you with an adjustable desk or other ergonomic solutions? Please share your concerns or experiences in the comments section below.



The "sit-stand" stations are offered by our Wellness committee at our office and they are quite popular.
<!--break--><!--break-->Thanks for responding. This is a growing trend. Good to hear. You must be part of a forward thinking company.