Sitting for too long has many negative side effects on your health. And, I’ve personally experienced some of these consequences over the past few weeks.
Before the Circuit Breaker, I used to go out for meetings a lot and also had an adjustable standing desk at my office. This allowed me to alternate between standing and sitting.
In the first two weeks of working from home, I started having back pain from sitting too much. I tried doing some exercises and stretches every other day but it did not quite work fo me. Hence, I did some research online and found out more about the consequences of sitting for too long. It turns out that the impact on one’s health and wellbeing was much worse than what I thought.
There are a few things which I feel that money cannot buy – mental health and physical health. After some serious consideration, I realized that the health consequences of sitting for too long far outweighed the cost of a standing desk. This made me decide to invest in a standing desk.
To support our SMEs, I decided to check out Omnidesk. They are known for good quality and were reviewed extensively by many publications such as Vulcan Post, August Man, SGEEK and The Smart Local.
The price is also pretty affordable. Given that similar options currently on the market are going for over $1,000, the Omnidesk Pro 2020 is much more affordably priced at S$760.
The company is also aligned with my values of environmentalism. The entire production process is stringently monitored and tested to ensure that the product is eco-friendly. The tabletop also does not contain any formaldehyde resins or other toxic substances.
If you are thinking of getting a standing desk as well, these are some consequences I found that motivated me to make a switch:
1.Sitting for too long makes you fatter
Sitting reduces the number of calories you burn. When you sit, the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute. This is about a third of what it does if you’re walking.
Thus, the more time people spent sitting down during the day, the more visceral and total abdominal fat people have had.
Even if you exercise, but spend a large amount of time sitting, you can’t reverse the effects of sitting 7 hours at a time.
“Sitting all day long is so bad that it can’t even be outdone by exercise…It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.”Evolutionary biologist and research fellow in biology at Imperial College London, Olivia Judson
In contrast, increased breaks in time spent sitting is proven to be beneficially associated with waist circumference. When compared to an afternoon of sedentary work, an equal amount of time spent standing has been shown to burn over 170 additional calories.
2. Sitting for too long causes back pain
Sitting for a long time puts huge stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine. It’s even worse if you slouch. Sitting causes the pelvis to rotate backward and puts pressure on the lumbar discs. This position forces the head forward and cause the shoulders to curve to compensate for the weight transfer.
In the long run, this can affect spine health. The compression of the discs in your spin could lead to premature degeneration, which can be very painful.
“Sitting for a long time adds a lot of pressure on the spine. It distorts the normal spine alignment. Thus, over time, sitting for a long time will cause stiffness and muscle imbalance,”Shwikar Aljunied, a physiotherapist at The Physiolink.
To determine if standing desks could improve this, several studies have been done on employees with long-term back pain. It was reported that those who have used a standing desk reported up to a 32% improvement in lower back pain after several weeks. In another study, the usage of standing desks reduced upper back and neck pain by 54% after just 4 weeks.
3. Sitting too much worsens food coma and increases risk of type 2 Diabetes
If you feel sleepy after lunch, you are not alone. We tend to get food coma after lunch because of a spike in blood sugar and insulin rush.
Sitting down after lunch actually worsens the food coma. When you sit, muscles relax. When muscles relax, they take up very little glucose from the blood, raising your risk of type 2 diabetes. The harmful effects of sitting after meals could help explain why too much sedentary time is linked to a 112% greater risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, a 2016 Dutch study found that every extra hour of sitting per day increases the risk of diabetes by 22 percent.
However, alternating between standing and sitting has been proven to reduce blood sugar spikes. In one study, it was found that standing for 180 minutes after lunch reduced the blood sugar spike by 43% compared to sitting for the same amount of time
4. Sitting for too long is bad for your heart health
Nearly 1 out of 3 deaths in Singapore, is due to heart disease or stroke. This means out of you and two other friends, one of you is likely to die in the future due to heart disease or stroke.
Experts say people who sit more have a 147 percent higher risk of suffering from a heart attack or stroke. Scientists first noticed something was up in a study that compared two similar groups: transit drivers, who sit most of the day, and conductors or guards, who don’t. Though their diets and lifestyles were a lot alike, those that sat were about twice as likely to get heart disease as those that stood.
“The more we sit the worse it is. The longer the duration of sitting, the more negative the impact on our cardiovascular health.”Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, Director of women’s heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York
5. Sitting for too long worsens your mental health
The Covid-19 pandemic and circuit breaker has left many people feeling alone and experiencing fear losing their jobs and anxiety about the situation.
In Singapore, we have seen an increased number of calls to mental health helplines. Suicide prevention agency Samaritans of Singapore’s (SOS) received an increase of more than 22 percent in the number of calls attended to on their 24-hour hotline in March 2020 as compared to that of the same period in 2019. Similarly, the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) saw an increase in helpline calls by 50 percent in February and March 2020.
If you find yourself experiencing these negative emotions, sitting less could help you.
A study followed 9,000 middle-aged women and determined that those who sat longer and did not meet minimum exercise requirements suffered from depression at much higher rates compared with the women who sat less and exercised more. When it came to sitting, those who sat for more than seven hours a day were 47 percent more likely to suffer from depression than those who sat four hours or fewer.
In another study, those who reported sitting for more than 6 hours a day were found to have more symptoms of anxiety than those who sat for less than 3 hours a day.
How I designed my work station for productivity, wellbeing and ergonomics?
Given the health hazards of sitting for too long, it is no wonder that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook provided all his employees with standing desks, saying that the combination of sitting and standing was “much better for their lifestyle.”
However, buying a standing desk i not going to solve all of your issues, you also need to use it correctly. Here are some tips:
I got a standing desk. A standing desk should not replace sitting entirely but should complement it. A ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 sitting versus standing time appears to be optimal for comfort and energy levels, without affecting productivity. To put simply, for every 1 to 2 hours you sit, 1 hour should be spent standing.
Remember to also stand correctly. Table height should be at or below elbow height. The top of your screen should be eye level.
Do consider enhancing your workstation with plants as they have been scientifically proven to enhance productivity by 15 percent, lower physiological stress, increase attention span, and improve well-being. 🙂
Get rid of clutter: Cluttered spaces can have negative effects on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus
Have a set of weights beside your desk so you can lift them during short breaks. This helps with raising energy levels and blood circulation.
If you find yourself or your family members sitting for the entire day, this is something you may want to counter by investing in a standing desk as part of your workstation. Otherwise, if you have a built-in desk at home, you can look for standing desk converter instead.
If you are interested in getting an Omnidesk, do use my promo code “JERALDINE” here to get $15 off your purchase. Click here to browse their collection.
Should you have any other tips to share on how to create an ergonomic and productive workspace, please feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below
This post was written in collaboration with Omnidesk