A good number of us spend long hours every day sitting in one position in front of a computer screen. While health studies indicating the benefits of being less sedentary may seem like common sense, a closer look at accumulating research shows some interesting and disturbing results. In particular, there appear to be significant health hazards of prolonged sitting even for individuals who are very active at other points in the day. This observation was emphasized in two recent studies published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine and in Diabetologia, a journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Imagine a worker who remains faithful to a 5-times-a-week exercise regimen, who has done vigorous cardiovascular exercise for most of his or her life, and who has a resting heart rate that’s significantly below the norm. As it turns out, that doesn’t protect the individual from the perils of sitting.
The latest research has emerged from observing health effects of people’s behavior rather than from some discovery of biological and genetic triggers associated with extended sitting. Still, scientists have concluded that after just 60 minutes of sitting, the body’s production of fat-burning enzymes drops by up to 90 percent. Extended sitting also slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and causes HDL levels in the blood to drop. These can be significant risk factors contributing to the development of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at UCLA clarifies that the science “is still evolving,” but maintains that she and many other scientists still “believe that sitting is harmful in itself.”
Healthy Workplace Alternatives
Yet workers with desk jobs can take heart: there is a growing movement toward ergonomic diversity and upright work: standing desks, treadmill desks, and recumbent bikes that allow workers to peddle while they plug away at their tasks.
These innovations have partly emerged from everyday workers improvising solutions for themselves. Yet those independent strategies are also being supported by the growing field of inactivity studies. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic reports that when he began researching in this area 15 years ago, it was perceived as a novelty. Now it’s considered fairly mainstream: “There’s been an explosion of research in this area, because the health care cost implications are so enormous,” he says.
Steelcase, a major manufacture of office furniture, reported related trends in the growing marketplace for adjustable workstations, where workers have the option to sit or stand during the day; they also now offer workstations featuring a treadmill beneath them for walking while doing deskwork.
The company offered its first models of height-adjustable desks in 2004. In the last five years, sales of this company’s various lines of adjustable desks have increased fivefold, now bringing in over $40 million each year. Models for stand-up work start at about $1,600 and go up to $4,000 for treadmill desks.
Smaller companies are getting into the game as well, and offering products at more affordable prices. Daniel Sharkey, founder of Ergo Desktop in Celina, Ohio, says that company sales have quadrupled in the last year, and is now shipping tens of thousands of workstations each year. He named the adjustable desk he first created in his home garage “the kangaroo desk,” because “it holds things, and goes up and down.” Many of the company models are priced from only $260 to $600.
For those who want to not only stand but also walk at their workstations, TrekDesk offers models priced at $479. However, the treadmill needs to be supplied by the customer. The company founder notes that his line has “gone from being treated as a laughingstock to a product that many people find genuinely interesting.”
There are also a growing number of blogs and collections of DIY solutions for stand-up work, including the sites Office Fitness and howtogeek.com.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
If you have suffered a workplace injury, the Washington Employment Attorneys of Emery Reddy can help you recover benefits from your workers’ compensation or L&I claim. If you are eligible for added benefits, our team can also help you get wage replacement, assistance returning to work, and pensions or disability benefits in the case of a severe injury.
Workers with permanent loss of function may need an attorney to help them recover a permanent partial disability award or monthly pension. Washington workers often qualify for such benefits even when their impairment does not prevent them from returning to work. Contact us today if you need help with denied L&I claims, unlawful practices during the independent medical examination, and other difficulties that workers face in navigating Washington Labor & Industries.