It wasn't long ago when Tim Cook the current CEO of Apple, Inc., coined the phrase, "sitting is the new cancer". Perhaps he should have stated it more succinctly and said "sitting is the new smoking", but there is a notable amount of research to substantiate the idea that sitting all day may very well be damaging to an individual's health. Unfortunately, the often-parodied, classic office worker with a doughnut in one hand while clutching their chest with the other as they experience a heart attack, has its roots in reality.
It is no secret that both adults and children, are becoming more sedentary because of sitting while at their place of employment or at school and then spending a significant amount of their leisure time either watching TV, playing video games or working on their own PC. Many adults have sedentary positions that require them to sit for long periods of time including various types of office work, truck or taxi driving, surveillance workers, air traffic controllers and computer-related jobs.
Individuals who spend many hours sitting every day are at greater risk for lumbar and cervical strain, weight gain, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The human body is designed for motion. Movement helps strengthen muscles which help to support the spine and other skeletal structures. Movement also increases circulation and many other body processes which helps the body to perform housekeeping functions such as maintaining proper blood sugar levels and cholesterol.
So what can an individual do to combat some of the ill effects of excessive sitting? Of course, Tim Cook would probably suggest that everyone buy an Apple watch and set a timer to vibrate every hour to remind employees to take a break and go for a short walk. Although this is a good idea and some may want to incorporate it into their daily routine, there are actually a multitude of things that can help workers alleviate some of the problems associated with sitting.
Many companies are getting on board with the idea of human resource departments performing an ergonomic evaluation of employee work stations. Making changes such as lowering or raising the height of PC monitors and chairs can go a long way to reduce neck and wrist strain. Many companies are also adopting the idea of adjustable work stations that can allow an employee to sit or stand at their desk after changing the height of their workstation table. A great addition to anyone's work area is a stand up desk mat, or anti-fatigue mat, that allows an employee to stand at their work station for longer periods by providing the proper cushioning and support for joints. When an employee would like to switch from standing to sitting, they simply roll their chair over the mat and lower the table of their work station.
Individuals can also do things on their own to improve their physical health. Taking a regular break during work time to go for a walk around the office is helpful. Rather than calling a co-worker on the phone or emailing them, go visit them at their cubicle and discuss work-related matters in person. Workers can join a local gym or at least go for a walk during their lunch hour to get more exercise. Walking or biking to work is another way to squeeze exercise into a busy schedule. Strength training is a great way to keep muscles toned, which in turn helps to support key structures in the body such as the spinal column and joints. Lastly, taking a few minutes every hour and performing some simple stretches while standing or sitting at a work station is another way to combat the effects of sedentary job strain.