Technological advances over the last several decades have changed the way many of us work. Instead of active days spent on our feet, many workers now sit most of the day. It turns out that these advances while beneficial in many ways have some unintended and harmful health consequences. Endocrinologists researching with the Mayo Clinic have determined that prolonged sitting has damaging effects on physical as well as mental health. In fact, the dangers of all day sitting have been compared equally to those of smoking. These dangers are of concern even for regular exercisers. Work desk alternatives may mitigate these effects. Here a few to try.
Balance ball chair
Trade in your normal desk chair for this option and get in a core workout while you earn your pay. Sitting on a balance ball chair requires use of your core, legs and hips to remain stable. That gives you a bit of a workout as you work. Some users report reduced back pain. This is likely because you must use proper posture with the chair. Sitting on a balance ball chair is also a kind of active sitting that requires small adjustments throughout the day. That amounts to a good bit of fidget like movement, which according to NBC news can burn up to 350 extra calories per day. Use of a balance ball chair takes a bit of practice so consider alternating with your regular chair throughout the day as you get the hang of it.
Use of a standing desk has been associated with reduced risk of chronic illness such as diabetes, poor cardiovascular health and obesity. Standing increases the opportunity for more movement throughout the day. More movement equals less sitting and more overall calories burned. Standing more throughout the day may also reduce your risk of diabetes by making you less susceptible to metabolic syndrome, a precursor for type 2 diabetes.
Studies have shown that use of a treadmill desk boosts worker productivity and health. According to Forbes magazine, participants lost an average of 8 pounds during the research period. Although getting up to speed takes time (workers lost productivity as they learned to walk and work simultaneously) once they get up to speed quality and productivity was shown to be higher than with traditional desks. Treadmill desks also boost circulation resulting in a reduced risk of osteoporosis, diabetes and vascular disease. These results are achieved simply by strolling slowly as you work.
If none of these options are available to you (maybe cost is prohibitive or you don’t have employer support) there is still something you can do. Just get up and move more throughout the day. Maybe take the stairs to another floor to talk with a colleague or use the farthest printer. Ideally, you want to get up at least once an hour and move for 2 to 3 minutes each time. The average worker sits almost 6 hours every day. You can reduce the associated dangers if you look for ways to sit less and move more.