One of the initial physicians to notice an issue was a Scottish epidemiologist who discovered conductors were at lower risk for coronary heart disease than their bus-driving colleagues. He undertook one of the earliest studies to investigate the risks of what was then called “sitting disease” back in the 1940s. When they expanded the study and compared postal delivery workers to sedentary postal clerks, Morris and his team found similar results.
Since that time, more and more research links sitting for uninterrupted periods of time, which is the kind of sitting most people experience at work and while commuting, with two times greater risk of diabetes, a 90 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 49 percent greater risk of death, among other conditions and diseases. It’s this research that drives the media buzz about how our jobs are killing us.
Sedentary Lifestyle Health Effects
In 2005, James A. Levine, an obesity specialist at Mayo Clinic, pioneered the way for research on the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle by publishing an article in Science Magazine. Levine’s conclusion was extended sitting can be harmful. Levine has even gone as far as labeling sitting as the disease of our time. It’s no surprise that sitting behind a desk, commuting or relaxing on the couch for too many hours a day can be harmful to your health, but what you may find surprising is the extent of havoc it is causing on your body.
According to an article posted by John Hopkins Medicine, physical inactivity has been shown to contribute to the following health conditions:
- Physical inactivity may increase the risks of certain cancers.
- Physical inactivity may contribute to anxiety and depression.
- Physical inactivity has been shown to be a risk factor for certain cardiovascular diseases.
- People who engage in more physical activity are less likely to develop coronary heart disease.
- People who are more active are less likely to be overweight or obese.
- Sitting too much may cause a decrease in skeletal muscle mass.
- Physical inactivity is linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.
- You’re also at risk of developing MSDs, or musculoskeletal disorders, like carpal tunnel, tendonitis, muscle or tendon strain, ligament sprain, tension neck syndrome, thoracic outlet compression, or rotator cuff tendonitis.
Here’s a tip: increase your overall physical activity. One way to add activity to the workday is to make sure you take regular breaks to walk around or stretch for a few moments every hour or two. When you vary your body’s position, you help protect against musculoskeletal injuries as well as increasing blood flow, which can give you a little energy boost.
You can perform exercises at your desk or do bodyweight exercises by the copy machine, in the restroom, or in your office or cubicle. But one of the easiest ways to move more at work is to start walking as often as you can.
Some people work for companies that willingly invest in office equipment that gets employees moving, such as treadmill desks, adjustable-height desks, or active seating. To help prevent these health-related issues boost workplace ergonomics. Take some time to evaluate your workstations and see what you can do to increase your movement. Ergonomic office furniture is a good place to start.
Improving Workplace Ergonomics
Improving overall workplace ergonomics is important when it comes to preventing musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. After all, it’s in the best interest of employees and employers to create a safe and comfortable workplace. An ergonomically friendly workplace has adequate lighting that isn’t too bright, and offers options for a variety of working postures, both standing and sitting. And an ergonomically friendly workplace should definitely encourage workers to take short breaks to stretch or walk around every half hour or so.