Take a stand in the workplace!
Recently there has been an explosion of research on the perils of sitting. Without delving into the detail, the growing body of evidence points to heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, diabetes and early mortality being caused by the cumulative impact of prolonged sitting (all articles and research referenced below).
So, is sitting the new smoking?
The research demonstrates the correlation between amount of time a person spends sitting and their chance of dying – a recent University of Sydney study found that people over 45 who sat for 11 or more hours a day had a 40 per cent greater risk of premature death, compared to those who were less sedentary. Similarly a 2012 American study found that reducing sitting time by three hours per day led to a life expectancy climb of two years.
If that isn’t already concerning, the research then found that the negative effects of sitting cannot be countered by brief bouts of strenuous exercise,
dispelling the common belief that sitting all day at the office can be counteracted by a visit to the gym afterwards.
All the research ties in to themes of our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, growing obesity epidemic and stretching work hours and commute times. Prolonged sitting has become the new bad habit to creep into the list of indulgences to we need to moderate, which will otherwise contribute to premature death.
Why is sitting so bad? Whilst researchers are still trying to understand exactly why, it appears to be related to enzymes which are released as muscles contract when standing. These enzymes help regulate blood fats and sugars. Muscle contraction is a major contributor to many of the body’s regulatory processes and when we sit, our muscles are mostly inactive. By contrast, standing for a short periods of time or walking helps the leg muscles contract which prevents the key enzymes being switched off.
The solution to counteract our sedentary tendencies is to adopt a mantra of stand up more, and move more, more often.
Whilst that sounds simple, the challenge is setting up the right environments to encourage good behaviours.
As project managers of commercial interiors, we are interested in exploring the application of these findings to the workspace. Whilst a simple sit versus stand dichotomy is often presented, we view the solution as an extension of ABW (Activity Based Working) which at its simplest means providing the right work environment for each task undertaken. This means offering a range of workplace setups for staff, including standing or sitting flexibility. Opportunities within the workspace include meeting areas, quiet and collaborative zones, lunch spaces and training facilities as well as the typical open plan workstations and office desks.
Each zone should have furniture that supports flexibility and movement, and considers:
Less obvious but equally important to selecting the right furniture is:
BRM Projects has risen to the challenge – we embraced sit to stand flexibility earlier this year and immediately noticed how standing aids concentration, energy levels and creativity.
Body language is more open which encourages interaction and posture is improved which aids vocal clarity and confidence.
Together with the long term health benefits of more active staff, we believe companies embracing sit to stand will immediately benefit from increased productivity.
…and yes, this article was written whilst standing and also sitting down!
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