How Long Is Too Long To Sit At Your Desk Each Work Day?

Now you have a new reason to be active during work!

September 16, 2015
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Standing desks are the ultimate divider between coveted jobs and those that are just…bleh. I’m obviously being facetious, but it does ring fairly true. Standing desks will (hopefully) be a norm in the future. Americans are incredibly sedentary, and sitting for at least an eight-hour workday is doing nothing to help combat the ever-increasing obesity problem. 

But what is the appropriate amount of standing time that you should be getting in per day?

A few months ago I came across an article on Facebook; I’ve since attempted to go back and find it but to no avail. Basically, it was a witty piece of prose where a man decided he was going to stand for 30 days to be healthier. Obviously he would lie down for sleep and sit while driving, but otherwise he was pretty consistent in his standing. His story was fairly humorous, but it made my back hurt just thinking about it. The first few days started off well enough, but soon his feet began to suffer. The maladies just kept piling up until he ultimately had to go to his physician’s office for all of his pain, which leads me to my point. There is a line between being healthy and standing up at work and just being in overkill mode.

Why Prolonged Sitting Is Bad News 

After a long bout in bed or on the couch, I feel mildly guilty, mostly because I just wasted time, but partially because I was being so sedentary. Since entering the workforce, I’ve made sure to consistently keep up with exercising and using my standing desk. However, on those days that I don’t feel motivated to stand I feel pretty gross leaving the office. It’s amazing what sitting down for most of the day can do to you. It decreases my energy level trifold and makes me rather unproductive for the rest of the day. This feeling I have isn’t just my imagination; widespread studies have indicated this type of feeling is the social norm for those in the workforce.

Just look at the wide range of negative health issues that stem from sitting during the entire workday:

Organ damage Heart damage and an overproductive pancreas have been attributed to sedentary lifestyles. When you’re sitting at your desk and then proceed to come home and rest, your blood flow becomes sluggish, which results in fatty acids clogging the heart. This leads to higher cholesterol and overall cardiovascular issues. 

Muscle deterioration When you slouch in your chair your abs are not being engaged in any way, therefore they begin to deteriorate and become rather nonexistent. Hips also become stiff, and your glutes are not engaged at all so your stride will suffer, causing overall bodily aches and pains.

Bad back This is a rather common problem because most of us aren’t sitting properly. Many of us will slouch forward, which ultimately gives us back problems and causes herniated disks. It also causes stiff, painful necks and chronic shoulder pain. 

Restless legs When your legs are not regularly engaged, circulation problems ensue, especially as you grow older. Your bones have a higher chance of breaking because they are not being used. 

If you have to sit, experts recommend sitting with upright posture, relaxing your shoulders, and not leaning forward. Keeping your elbows bent to a comfortable 90 degrees with your arms in tight to your body will reduce problems as well. Also, make sure that you’re doing activities outside of work instead of just going home to continue your daily sitting routine. However, some researchers have even claimed that exercising before or after work may not reverse the effects of extended sitting in the workplace (Washington Post).

Tips To Properly Standing

If your goal is to start standing up at work, you need to do this gradually. Aim for roughly two hours a day with little breaks in between until your body gets used to it. Next, attempt to move up to four hours; this should be your maximum amount of standing time. Try switching up your posture every 30 minutes, as this helps rev up your metabolism.

“It’s all about mixing it up,” said Gavin Bradley, director of Active Working, an international group aimed at reducing excessive sitting. “Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off. And after two hours, good cholesterol drops 20 percent. Just getting up for five minutes is going to get things going again. These things are so simple they’re almost stupid.”

Health experts say that this four-hour standing time is just a starting point and will evolve with time and more study. Many people and workplaces want to know the scientific viewpoint on what is an appropriate amount of standing time, but more specific recommendations will come in the future. Nutritionists are hopeful that standing in the workplace will combat the growing health risks that many adults are beginning to incur with near-constant sitting. It appears that sedentary workers have more than twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and a 13 percent increased risk of cancer. These are startling numbers that are only increasing (Washinton Post).

People who have begun suffering from these diseases and have started implementing more standing into their daily routine have found positive effects that are essentially reversing their disease, which is an even more persuasive reason for introducing standing desks nationwide. Ikea is now selling an office-friendly standing desk that is quite affordable. 

Even if you don’t have a standing desk yet, there are other alternatives for getting up at the office: Take business calls standing up, walk down the block to get some fresh air during a bathroom break, or even stand in the back of meetings. 

The health benefits of standing are undisputable, so it’s best to start switching up your work routine sooner rather than later. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Staff Writer