The Key to a Healthier Life: Standing

We might even call sitting the new smoking.

What can you do if you’re part of the 92 percent of Americans without Herculean willpower? How can you successfully make a healthy lifestyle change in 2013? The answer might surprise you. Start with a micro-adjustment in your existing routine – it’s guaranteed to improve your health and it costs nothing. You could be doing it right now. It’s called standing. And it’s something we should all do more of this year.

Sitting, as every ergonomist knows, is hazardous to our health. Yet most of us sit all day — at work, in a car or on the couch watching a movie or a ballgame. Sitting slows our metabolism. It’s been linked to heart attacks and diabetes, kidney disease and cancer.  Just two hours of sitting per day can drop good cholesterol by 20 percent and reduce blood flow. There’s a direct link between the rise of sedentary jobs in America — up 83 percent since 1950 — and the increase in obesity. More than a third of adults are now classified as obese. Our newfound idleness is shaving years off our lives.

Men who spend more than 10 hours a week in a car have an astonishing 82 percent greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who are more active. And women who sit for more than six hours a day are 37 percent more likely to die than their counterparts who sit for less than three hours a day. If people sat less than three hours a day, U.S. life expectancy would increase by two years. We might even call sitting the new smoking.

According to Martha Grogan, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, the risk of heart attack for people who sit most of the day is the same as it is for smokers. The standard prescription for obesity — more exercise — may not help. Even regular gym-goers aren’t immune to the negative health effects of sitting. Genevieve Healy, a research fellow at the Cancer Prevention Research Centre of the University of Queensland in Australia, has calculated that a 30-minute session at the gym isn’t enough to undo the damage of sitting down for a full workday.

The fix for sitting too much? Stand up! Be mindful of how much you sit. Look for opportunities to stand during your daily routines. This could mean staying on our feet while having your morning coffee, reading the newspaper, or talking on the phone. In places where sitting is necessary — such as the office — keep your eye on the clock, and be sure to stand up and walk around at regular intervals. Bosses can call standing meetings. Not only are such on-your-feet conclaves healthier for all involved — they’re shorter, too.

Consider height-adjustable sit/stand desks. They were good enough for Leonardo da Vinci, Donald Rumsfeld, and Winston Churchill–they’re good enough for you, too. And they’re healthier. A 200-pound man can burn nearly 30 percent more calories by standing rather than sitting during a normal workday.  According to the CDC workers who had access to standing workstations experienced dramatic decreases in neck and back pain and their mood improved. High-top tables in cafeterias can transform lunch, a sedentary activity into a healthy one. They can also encourage more socializing among employees than conventional lunch tables do. Bottom line? Do your health a favor and resist the urge to sit this year. Stand up and live healthy! It’s the surest way to a happier, healthier you in 2013.

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Dick Resch is the chief executive officer of KI, a contract furniture manufacturer of innovative height-adjustable desks, movable wall systems, and other furnishings for the education, healthcare, government, and corporate markets.

Categories: Design, Healthcare Architecture

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