Is sitting killing you slowly and painfully?

A sedentary lifestyle kills

The work performed in an office is primarily sedentary work with minimal energy expenditure. Office work has traditionally been considered as a 'low risk' occupation in terms of chronic health outcomes, it may in fact increase the risk of mortality and cardiometabolic disorders due to overall accumulated sedentary time.

Many office workers spend more then 6 hours of their day in a sitting position at their desk. The same people then sit in their car or train on their way home followed by additional sitting time on the couch in front of the TV. The energy expenditure while sitting is a very low 1.25 kilojoules per minute. This work rate is doubled to 2.5 kilojoules per minute when standing!

According to researchers there is a growing body of evidence that people who do physically demanding jobs are fitter, healthier and less likely to suffer from fatal heart attacks than their less active colleagues. According to a University of Sydney study, people who sit for 8 to 11 hours a day increased their risk of dying by 15 per cent! Other researchers claim that sitting may have more to do with obesity then the lack of physical activity.

Consequences of a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of:

  • mortality
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • high blood sugar level

Even more worrying is the research that suggests exercising doesn't necessarily counteract the damage caused by sitting all day in the office.

Increased risk of developing muskuloskeletal disorders

  • Office workers in today's modern workplace perform a majority of their work at a desk. A poorly designed workstation can lead to a number of muskuloskeletal disorders (MSDs) through cumulative trauma. Cumulative trauma is defined as repeated application of force to a structure that tends to wear down a structure beyond its tolerance limit. This cumulative trauma can lead to inflammation and swelling of tendons and muscles, reduced motion, strength, mobility and microtrauma of muscle fibres resulting in partial tears. The result is often back and neck pain with researchers estimating that 95% starts through inactivity instead of excessive demand.

    Work performed in a seated position puts the worker at greater risk of spine loading and damage, while prolonged standing may result in static overload. In a 2002 study; researchers found relationships between certain static postures while sitting at a workstation and the development of MSDs.

    There is an abundance of statistical data reflecting the severity of the MSDs issue in the workplace. According to 'Safe Work Australia - Key Work Health and Safety Statistics 2012', the most common work-related injuries were sprains and strains, at 43% of all serious claims. Safe Work Australia has identified MSDs as a high priority disease group. The '2009-2010 ABS Work Related Injuries' report lists sprains/strains and chronic joint or muscle conditions as the most commonly reported work-related injury or illness sustained across the majority of industries. It is estimated that the total cost of MSDs is 20 billion dollars annually.

    The good news is that it is possible to minimise or eliminate work-related injuries to the musculoskeletal system through redesign of a workstation. An ergonomically designed workstation can enhance worker physical and mental well being, job satisfaction and safety.

    As highlighted in the 2006 'Worksafe - Officewise - A guide to health & safety in the office', "electric height adjustment of the workstation is most appropriate". Researchers claim that allowing workers to alternate between sitting and standing and hence changing working postures during prolonged work can have significant beneficial effects on the productivity and health of the worker.

A holistic approach

The provision of an electric height adjustable sit to stand desk as a single stand alone control measure is not advisable. Other factors such as ensuring the appropriate use of a sit to stand desk including training and monitoring, provision of appropriate ergonomic seating, lighting and glare inside the office, all play important roles in addressing the issue with a holistic approach. For example, administrative controls such the promotion of regular walking breaks is also important.

However, in many workplace scenarios, the opportunity for workers to take regular walks and breaks is not a viable option. Even in positions where autonomy and freedom is high, a worker may have an important deadline to meet, which may force the worker to spend excessive amounts of time at a desk without the opportunity for a break. In these scenarios, an electric height adjustable Alpha sit to stand desk allows the individual to quickly, quietly and smoothly, change posture from sitting to standing. This can result in a healthier and happier life; priceless!

Key Points:

  • provision of training followed up with monitoring on the use of your sit to stand desk is recommended
  • ergonomic factors; appropriate seating, lighting and glare considerations
  • consult your doctor if in doubt whether you can stand 5-15mins every hour
  • do not overdo it at first, if you're struggling, limit your standing time to 5 minutes at a time
  • moderation is key, always alternate between sitting and standing, too much of either sitting or standing can lead to adverse health effects


Why sitting is bad for you - Murat Dalkilinc

Catalyst - Sitting Is Deadly

RT America - Sitting at your desk more dangerous than being obese, study finds

Get Off Your Duff! Sitting Is the 'New Smoking' - CBN.com


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