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Is your office chair killing you? Scientists say spending part of your day standing could make you healthier

Victoria, Seychelles | August 30, 2014, Saturday @ 07:55 in National » HEALTH | By: Hajira Amla and Sharon Uranie | Views: 1629
Is your office chair killing you? Scientists say spending part of your day standing could make you healthier

Office worker (MoDOT Photos/Flickr) A British expert have said standing for least an hour at work may cut preventable diseases among the population. Photo License: (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

(Seychelles News Agency) - If you have a desk-bound office job, chances are good that you are reading this while sitting down. But medical experts would prefer you to spend at least an hour during your work day standing up, claiming that standing while working reduces the risk of heart disease and obesity.

The standing desk is not a new concept – in Victorian times, doctors warned against sedentary lifestyles and the use of standing desks was widespread among society from statesmen to office clerks. Great thinkers such as Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill were all known to stand while working.

And in recent years, the standing desk has begun to make a comeback, first among a few lone rangers who gushed about the benefits of standing and working, building up to a crescendo of office workers and public health experts calling for its widespread adoption.

Now a top British expert has hinted that standing for at least part of the work day may be adopted as a national health guideline to cut preventable diseases among the population. According to the British Daily Mail, Professor Kevin Fenton, who is the national director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, office workers should be standing at their desks for no less than an hour each day.

Professor Fenton has recommended that workers who spend seven hours or more a day sitting should have standing breaks by holding stand-up meetings or simply set aside a certain amount of time to work standing up.

“Standing has benefits for improving your posture and therefore back pain, it improves your circulation and therefore cardiovascular health and it also promotes greater mobility in general,” he said. “If you are standing you are likely to be moving around a little bit more.”

“There’s no minimum time for standing but it’s about being mindful about not sitting down for six or seven hours a day,” he added.

Standing up increases the heart rate by about ten beats a minute compared to sitting or lying down. This elevated heart rate can burns an extra 0.7 calories a minute, or 50 an hour, leading many advocates of the standing desk to claim that they had lost weight without changing their other dietary or exercise habits.

The Daily Mail recently published an article by a health writer Louise Atkinson who set herself a challenge where she only sat down when strictly necessary for one month at the end of which she said she went from a size 14 to a size 12.

Standing Desks: Giving Your Back a Break (Youtube Video/Lee Memorial Health System)

Finding the right balance

It can be said that too much of a good thing can be bad, and standing is no exception. Aside from being tiring, prolonged standing can also create stress on your circulatory system, increasing the risk of carotid atherosclerosis, swollen legs, lower back ache and varicose veins. These problems are commonly found in workers who are required to stand for most of their work-day, such as nurses and air hostesses.

This poses a dilemma: do you need two desks, one for sitting and one for standing? Height-adjustable desks are available on the market, but can be costly. If you work on a laptop, you can use a small coffee table, a flat printer or even a cardboard box on top of your normal work surface, and then simply remove it when you feel you want to sit again.

If you don’t have a laptop, you can split your sitting and standing between the types of tasks you do. American professional organizer Mary Pankiewicz says tasks that require creative thinking, high concentration or simply courageous determination should be tackled standing.

When work feels complicated, when you dislike a certain task you absolutely have to do, when you have lots of papers to sort through, or if your body is tired from sitting, are all good times to stand up for better productivity.

Variety, it seems, really is the spice of work life. Spend part of the day sitting in an ergonomic chair, stand for another part of the day in comfortable shoes, standing on a mat that will help to take the stress off your joints and stretch often to aid the circulation. And round it all off with some physical activity, like a few short walks that can be worked into your normal work day – taking the stairs instead of the lift or walking at lunchtime instead of driving to your favourite shop or restaurant.

Exercising habits in Seychelles

Talking to a few office workers in Seychelles, SNA learnt that they have read about how standing up for a certain period during the day can help reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity but they do not consciously do so themselves.

While standing up for at least an hour while at work as a form of keeping themselves fit might not be something that people in Seychelles have given much thought too, quite a number of people do engage in physical activities either to keep themselves healthy or to lose weight.

Apart from engaging in a particular sports discipline, in Seychelles some people do work out in the gym or attend aerobic classes either during lunch time or after work. Others simply love to join with a friend or family member and do a few laps around the much frequented fitness trail at Roche Caiman on the east Coast of the main Seychelles’ island of Mahé. 

Men and women in Seychelles exercising at Roche Caiman's fitness trail on the eastern coast of the main island of Mahe (Patrick Joubert, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
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Tags: health, heart disease, obesity, exercise

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