Service of Scheduling Stand-Ins and Stretches

October 1st, 2015

Categories: Health, Office, Office Design

Sit at desk

There are days when suddenly it’s 6 pm and I realize I’ve not left the office for a second—or my desk chair more than twice. This week after a day like this my eye caught yet another article about the dangers of sitting too long in one place. A few months ago there had been a rash of them promoting that people ask employers to buy them an architect’s drafting desk so they could stand at work, perhaps encouraged by a furniture manufacturer.

Sumathi Reddy wrote: “studies have found that sedentary behavior including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”

It appears to be serious. She wrote in her Wall Street Journal article “The Price We Pay for Sitting Too Much: New formulas for how long we should spend sitting and standing in a workday” that “Various studies have shown that even regular exercise won’t compensate for the negative effects from sitting too much during the day.” She shared insight of John Buckley, a professor of applied exercise science at the University of Chester in England. “Sitting causes physiological changes in the body, and may trigger some genetic factors that are linked to inflammation and chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, standing activates muscles so excess amounts of blood glucose don’t hang around in the bloodstream and are instead absorbed in the muscles, he said.”

Stretch in officeSo what I suspected all along is true: that marathon sitting binges to get a project under control may be good for peace of mind but not for me. But the advice in Reddy’s article isn’t practical. Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University suggests breaking up the work day. “For every half-hour working in an office, people should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes and then move around and stretch for two minutes. I’m sure he’s right, but who has the time? You may be ready for your eight minute break but a colleague may not be ready for your visit. So what do you do for those eight minutes to accomplish what you’re paid for? You may catch up on your phone calls to friends–which after a while they’ll resent–but what about work?

Standing while workingShe also shared a panel’s guidelines published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine to stand two to four hours along with “light activity spread throughout the day.” That works if you’re a sports pro but for people with office-based jobs? She continued, “And research from NASA has found that standing up for two minutes 16 times a day while at work is an effective strategy for maintaining bone and muscle density, Dr. Hedge says.” You could stand during phone conversations if you didn’t have to take notes but few people make 16 calls a day.

Do you think that bosses in offices will encourage staffers to get up and down countless times daily to save on future medical costs and lost workdays due to illness? Are you able to do this? Can a person concentrate if he/she must leave the computer for eight minutes every 30 minutes and at the end of the day, have they accomplished as much as before? Are there other situations in which the solutions to avert a potential health issue aren’t complicated yet because they are cumbersome, impractical, or distracting, people may have a hard time changing their habits? Why do you think that we are hearing more and more about this dangerous situation now?

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10 Responses to “Service of Scheduling Stand-Ins and Stretches”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Stand-ins and stretches notwithstanding, fast/junk food and soda pop are probably culprits leading to poor health/obesity and premature death. All the exercises in the world are not about to make things better unless the public becomes more discriminating about what it pours and shoves down the communal throat.

    While former Mayor Bloomberg was out of line attempting to limit intake of certain beverages, the fact of the matter remains they are poisons. The bossy mayor might be taken to task for attempting to intrude on individual consumption, but not condemned for taking constituents welfare to heart.

    Trouble now is, if the public shakes off the siren calls of Madison Avenue and drops its taste for toxic substances, a financial crisis is sure to follow. Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds, Wendy’s & etc. stocks go belly up…….. Now what?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I think many have already traded water or plain seltzer for colas and other sweet sodas but not enough people. It’s hard to change: I had to wean myself off Coke that I’d sip daily at the office and now only drink one on occasion and keep seltzer on hand at work.

    I imagine that sweet drinks contribute to diabetes…don’t know about heart disease and cancer or the liver problems that specialists report sitting too long at a desk cause. There are so many drink choices at supermarkets and delis that the time it takes to select a healthier beverage doesn’t compare to the two and a half hours taken from each work day in which a desk-sitter is supposed to devote to moving around and stretching [16 minutes an hour to walking around and four minutes to stretching]. Employers will lose those two hours of work–not to speak of the time spent settling down after each interruption.

  3. ASK Said:

    Have we not yet realized that an individual’s overall health is far too complex to subscribe to all these edicts, or diktats, handed down by all these studies? Jeannie, are you really enjoying that seltzer? I’m still drinking my diet ginger ale with lunch at my desk…my weight is within guidelines for my age & height.

    Doesn’t it make more sense to exercise when you can, or take an office break once in a while.

    Just thinking about all that time-keeping every hour is enough to break your focus on the job. And what about people like retail sales clerks who don’t get to sit that much — the opposite end of the spectrum?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    I don’t care for the after-taste of diet drinks and actually, I like seltzer now. Every once in a while I’ll drink some kind of fruit juice if I’m in the mood.

    It sure does make more sense to take an office break once in a while than 16 breaks a day or two an hour. I was surprised more about the off the wall suggestions made, I suppose, with a straight face, than by the fact that sitting so long caused such potential disaster….You’d need to set a timer and in a big office with many desks imagine the noise and confusion. Ridiculous.

    As for retail people whom I admire for their stamina and strength, I read that they, too had problems because they stood so long but I don’t think that varicose veins kill…at least I hope that they don’t.

    I imagine if your body isn’t prone to get one of the dread diseases attributed to sitting too long you probably won’t be diagnosed with one and if you are prone, hopping up every half hour won’t help much [nor will losing your job or clients]. However I wrote this post as a warning to me as I worry, when I’ve been tapping at my computer and laptop for hours on end without leaving my chair for so much as a walk around the office floor, that I must MOVE AROUND a little.

  5. hb Said:

    You touch upon a sensitive, serious subject. Brava, and hats off!

    I grew up uncoordinated, ungainly, under-motivated and over-nourished. In sum, I vehemently disliked athletics, athletes, and indeed physical exercise of any sort. Not surprisingly, after my compulsory stint in the army, I always managed to find work, mostly in big companies, which required no physical exertion of any sort.

    I soon realized, though, that just sitting in one place all day was just plain unhealthy. (You are right. You’ve got to move around — and not just because of your body.)

    On my first job, I noticed something I had not realized quite to the same extent before. Americans were (and still are) in love with using gadgets to talk to each other. The desk occupants to my left and right regularly talked to each on the phone or sent themselves memoranda. (Now, it would be texts or the like.) They never got out of their chairs to talk in person.

    I decided to be different. If I had something to say to somebody in the same building where I worked, I did not telephone or send a memo, I went across the room or up or down a few floors. Later, when I had people working for me, if I wanted to talk to one of them, I didn’t phone my secretary to phone them to phone me, I got up, went out and brought them back to my office. I also cut out all memo writing between the people that worked for me.

    There was a double benefit: I was up and down all the time, and nobody ever knew when I was going to pop up.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    hb,

    Your solution works and your description of memo-writers/texters/email addicts is apt. I have a friend whose desk was in one room with her boss and another person. The boss insisted she send an email if she had something to “say” and ordered her not to speak to her. Another friend can see a colleague from where she sits and the person never gets out of her chair. I collaborate on projects with a colleague in my office. We email each other only when one of us is out of the office and the other person needs to know about a development. When we’re here, we get up.

    When I visited 3M, we’d walk plenty to attend this or that meeting and the employees no doubt naturally got up and down countless times a day for this reason. This is yet another reason for face-to-face meetings.

    Your simple tip–to move and speak face-to-face and not write–may save lives!

  7. Hank Goldman Said:

    Easy solution……
    Elevate desks to standing height.
    Insert small portable Treadmill under desk.
    Constant movement, without leaving desk.
    Problem solved.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna wrote on Facebook: I find that standing up, walking outside, playing with the dog for a few minutes actually enhances my productivity…especially when I’m searching for that “perfect” word.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    Sounds like a new business idea–are you game?

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Donna,

    It’s true that a quick walk or change of scene helps solve a problem but if you’re juggling a few things the tendency is to move to the next project and return to the word search or solution that’s stumping you which is probably the least efficient and clearly the less healthy option.

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