We love modern electronic gadgets that simplify our life, make our work more productive and time at play more fun. And in many cases, these gadgets can help us live healthier lifestyles.
For example, more and more of us are wearing electronic devices that help us achieve our fitness goals by tracking the number of stairs we climb, tracking the calories we eat or tracking our heartbeat rates.
But there is a downside to the increasing number of electronic devices we enjoy at work and at home. When everything is accessible at your fingertips, there is less and less reason to get up from your chair. The result: an unhealthy sedentary lifestyle.
Do you Lead a Sedentary Lifestyle at Work?
Our transition to a service economy combined with today’s modern conveniences has led an increasing number of us to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, especially at work.
There are a few exceptions. If you have a job in agriculture, in manufacturing, shipping and distribution or the food service industry, you’re more likely to be standing on your feet at the job.
But more and more of us work all day at a computer with a rolling desk chair with everything right at hand. No need to stand up except take a bio break!
But wait you say! “I work with a tablet.” Well unfortunately it looks like repeated use of smartphones and tablets can contribute to ‘Tablet Neck’ according to this report from the Harvard School of Public Health.
Sitting is Bad for You — Even if You Exercise Regularly.
In the last year, more and more health professionals have begun using the expression “sitting is the new smoking” to describe the problem.
What are the consequences of sitting too much? We turn to an article published in Annals of Internal Medicine by David Alter, MD, PhD, Senior Scientist at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network and Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
Key Findings of the Study:
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of whether a person exercises regularly or not.
- Exercising one hour a day doesn’t eliminate the problem. In other words, even if you exercise regularly, prolonged sitting remains a separate health issue.
What does Dr Alter recommend?
- Every thirty minutes you should take a short (1-3 minute) break and stand up. Standing burns twice as many calories as sitting.
- Gradually change your behavior. Try reducing your sitting times by 15 – 20 minutes per day at first. Reduce sitting week by week. Over the long term you should try to eliminate 2 to 3 hours of sitting during a 12 hour day.
Educators are also taking notice. Students seem to benefit from standup desks.
School physical education programs have been on the wane for many years and today’s students populations are more sedentary than in the past. Obesity is an increasing problem.
In response, there have been studies to see if stand up desks can help student performance and weight management. Mark Benden, Associate Professor at Texas A&M, has studied the impact of standing desks on Texas fourth grade students.
Students using the standing desks burned 300 more calories per week than the control group. Overweight students burned up to 575 more calories compared to the students who sat at normal desks.
Teachers in Benden’s study reported better behavior and more focus on learning among the students using the standup desks.
Does Fidgeting Help Students Learn?
Now research is looking at whether encouraging students to ‘fidget’ and move around while in the classroom is actually productive. One chair manufacturer, Safeco, has introduced a desk/chair combination with a built-in swing for students to move their legs around as they sit. Safeco’s Alphabetter desk is designed to encourage student movement in the classroom but minimize distraction to other students in class.
Can standing desks like these help students perform better? It’s possible. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that many students (and perhaps boys especially) perform better when they are active. Students diagnosed with ADHD may also benefit from this type of increased physical activity. We look forward to seeing results from upcoming peer reviewed studies.
What about Moving Desks?
The evidence seems to indicate that using standing desks while at work will improve your health. But should you take it one step further and use a desk that can change your seating position throughout the day? What about desks with built-in treadmills?
So far we have not found evidence that the treadmill desks are more effective than standing desks, but they certainly make a statement. Here humorist and commentator Mo Rocca takes a look at treadmill desks at his office and at Cosmopolitan magazine.
Moveable Furniture Designs Now Widely Available for Commercial Applications
Buyers at the largest tradeshow for commercial office furniture, NEOCON, were able to test out dozens of different moveable, reconfigurable seating and work table solutions.
This elegant desk can move from a fully seated sitting position to a full standing desk.
A Desk that Reminds You to Move: The Kinetic Desk by Stir
Maybe you need a more active reminder to change your seating position throughout the day. That’s the thought behind the Stir desk, invented by ax-Apple engineer JP Labrosse who is now the CEO of Stir. The Stir desk has an ‘active mode’ that decides on its own when you need to change seating positions. Before moving it gives you a subtle tactile alert — then a motor moves the desk surface up or down. Check out the video to get an idea of how it works:
A Cheaper Solution: Potato Sack Races at the Office
It doesn’t take a lot of money to modify an IKEA desk to sit higher so you can stand as you work. Hopefully your version will look more elegant than this one. But what about moving desks or desks with treadmills? Are they worth the money? Until we see some conclusive studies, we’re not sure and they can be quite expensive.
Looking for a cheaper solution? You may find inspiration from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Here she challenges Jimmy Fallon to a Potato Sack Race Race in the White House.