Sunday 22 April 2018

To sit or not to sit, that is the question

Should you stand at your desk instead of sitting in your office chair? Karl Henry looks at the facts

Trainer Karl Henry.
Trainer Karl Henry.

Standing or sitting - it's fast become the great debate. The Canadian government is promoting standing more during the day as their solution for the obesity epidemic and has built a programme to get more people on board.

But will standing for long periods actually make any difference to your health?This week I thought I would do some research and give you the low-down on standing at work and what it might do for you.

How long do you think we spend sitting each day? Have a think about your own day - how long did you sit down yesterday?

You're probably sitting as you read this, too. On average , it turns out that we sit for just under eight hours a day; that's one third of a day. Some reports say that people can sit for up to 15 hours.

What effect does all this sitting have on your body? Well, quite a lot, it turns out.

Sitting down regularly for long periods affects the metabolic system, the muscular and skeletal system, your energy system and even blood profiling. There is even a term for excessive sitting - 'sitting disease'.

We already know that inactivity and poor fitness levels are linked to myriad health problems. And one of the cornerstones of inactivity is sitting all day.

By spending more time on your feet - and I'm not necessarily talking about standing all day, just more frequently and for longer - it will help you to increase your overall energy expenditure, burning an extra 50 to 70 calories a day. If you stand for four hours extra per day, that's 200-280 calories extra a day, or around 2lbs of fat a month - 24lbs of fat a year. In addition, your heart rate will increase by around eight to ten beats per minute.

Standing more can help you to improve your muscle tone, your posture, your core, your blood flow and help to speed up your metabolism. What's not to like?

But what about the pain of standing more, won't it hurt? Well, if you try to stand all day tomorrow, yes, it probably will. But like anything, if you ease into it and build up gradually, then you will get stronger and more capable. A Stanford University study I found stated that workers who used sit-stand desks were 78pc more likely to report a pain-free day than those who used regular workstations in terms of back pain.

There is lots of evidence to promote the benefits of standing more. No matter when, where or how long you stand for. At home, at work , in school or college, when travelling - basically, standing will help to get the body working harder and more efficiently. In terms of work, here are some options that you can choose from:

Sitting on an exercise ball rather than a chair

Quite an easy change to make that will make a difference. Be careful to sit tall with good posture and engage the core when you do.

Working at a standing desk rather than sitting

I have seen plenty of these in companies all over Ireland when working with them. You can buy a desk adapter quite cheaply and convert your desk over. Some even come with cool extras such as a keyboard extension to make things even easier.

Using a treadmill while working at a standing desk

Believe it or not, there are lots of these in Ireland. I have seen people walk 16-20 miles a day while working and typing at their 'desk'. It's not hard exercise, but is it better than sitting, of course.

Breaking up sitting with movement at regular intervals

Probably the most effective and easiest way to do it. Why not aim to stand for 30 minutes each hour, or 15 minutes every hour if that seems too much?

I think like everything, balance is key. Too much of anything is bad for you, so why not aim to make some simple changes to your day. Stand on the train as opposed to sitting, take a look at your desk, get up off your bum more often. I will leave you with another study that is so simple, but makes a powerful point.

British researchers compared rates of heart disease in London bus drivers (who sit) and bus conductors (who stand) and found that the former group experienced far more heart attacks and other problems than the latter. It also found that drivers had larger waist lines.

If that's not motivation for you, then I'm not sure what is.

Irish Independent

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