December 6, 2012

Stand Up For Health At Work

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the treadmill desks as reported by NPR and redOrbit. Well, On December 1, 2012, The New York Times continued this discussion. The article addresses the very real health issues associated with sitting too long. In fact, it went a couple of steps further in discussing that even relatively active, healthy individuals suffer from sitting too long. It also discussed how we sit much more today than even fifty years ago because of technology.

The New York Times article listed several ergonomic options for being more active, which lead to sitting less. Of course, Dr. James Levine’s treadmill desk was top on the list as were the other treadmill desk alternatives. What a great invention the treadmill desk is! The more exposure it receives, the better and healthier we will all be.

But the article also identified several other options for less sitting and more action. First, it talked about the kangaroo desk, which can telescope so that people can alternate between sitting and standing. Definitely a beneficial idea.

Another option for more active desk work is the upright desk, which is a desk where people stand to work. The kangaroo desk moves to one where people can either sit or stand, but upright desks are those where people just stand.

All of these office furniture choices promote health because they require workers to be more active. This is important because even those who exercise regularly suffer the consequences of too much sitting. The New York Times article noted that people who sit at a desk for more than an hour experience such health declines as lowered HDL (you know, the good cholesterol), slowed metabolism of glucose, and a decline in the enzymes that burn fat. This happens to everyone, no matter how healthy or active they are. All of these lead to heart issues and possibly Type 2 diabetes.

Suddenly, a treadmill desk or upright desk don’t look so bad.

Some people even work at home on recumbent bikes and such. They watch television, read, and talk to others while on these bikes. There is real hope in the abundance of these articles stressing more activity.

The more exposure we have to information about the importance of being active, the more likely we are to actually become active. The studies of sedentary lifestyles provide us with the knowledge and information we need to convince our companies of the importance of being active even at work. When so much work is completed using technology like computers, we find ourselves sitting for long periods working on projects and reports and, like in my case, emails and grading and research.

For so long, people have become acclimated to sitting while we work, but we can stand to type and troll the web just as easily as we can sit. And this simple move to standing will help circulation, which helps the brain thus we work better. Of course, alternating between sitting and standing is good, too.

What is important is that we don’t get stuck just sitting behind a desk staring at a computer and working all day. For me, I take five to ten minute breaks every hour. I walk around my campus sometimes with purpose and sometimes just to take a break. Because I work in higher education, I know that we do not have the budget for a treadmill desk, no matter how beneficial it might be, so I have found a way to simulate, at least to some degree, the treadmill desk benefits. We do not have to have telescoping desks or treadmill desks; we can find ways for activity without the furniture. We must make a commitment to this for our health.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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