According to Dr James Levine, a leading endocrinologist at the renowned Mayo Clinic, the human body is like a fish out of water in the modern workplace. In his book Get Up! he explains that we are designed to stand, walk, run and climb, yet, ironically, advances in technology that were meant to make our lives easier have rendered us inert.
The average working adult now spends 5 hours and 42 minutes a day sitting at their desk, fostering potentially catastrophic effects on their physical and mental health.
Levine suggests that making the simplest of changes to the way we work can have a huge, positive impact on our health, helping us to:
1. Reduce the risk of obesity
Levine’s research found that regularly breaking up long periods of sitting by working standing up and moving around, was far more beneficial than intense periods of activity in the gym.
2. Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
Studies by Levine (and others) have found that sitting for extended periods of time is correlated with reduced effectiveness in regulating levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
3. Improve heart health
According to Levine, adults who sit for an additional two hours per day have a 125% increased risk of health problems related to cardiovascular disease, including chest pain and heart attacks.
4. Reduce the risk of cancer
The underlying mechanism by which sitting increases cancer risk is still unclear, but scientists have found a number of biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein, that are present in higher levels in people who sit for long periods of time.
5. Live longer
A 2012 study, published in the BMJ, suggests that life expectancy could be increased by two years, simply by reducing the amount of time spent sitting to less than three hours per day.
Levine says it’s easy:
“Step one is GET UP. Step two is learn to get up more often. Step three is, once you're up, move”, he says. “And what we've discovered is that once you're up, you do tend to move.”
So, adopting steps one and two is the most important part—and using a desk that encourages you to stand for at least some of the time is one of the most convenient ways of doing just that. Your body will thank you for it.