Kevan Christie: Sitting down could be killing you

Electro pop-pioneers Kraftwerk were ahead of the game in more ways than one.
There's increasing evidence that sitting down is bad for you. Would a pilates ball help or should we adopt standing desks?There's increasing evidence that sitting down is bad for you. Would a pilates ball help or should we adopt standing desks?
There's increasing evidence that sitting down is bad for you. Would a pilates ball help or should we adopt standing desks?

Not only are the influential ‘kosmiche musik’ legends credited with creating a whole genre of music, you could also make a case for them inventing the concept of the stand-up desk at their live gigs.

For among the myriad of health advice, ranging from ketogenic diets to pouring coconut water on our cornflakes - the simple act of standing up is back in vogue as something that’s good for us.

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The flip side to this is that sitting down is now considered seriously uncool, as well as unhealthy – so I don’t know where this leaves those of us who like nothing better than lying on the couch, watching Netflix, while mainlining Maltesers. Heading towards ill-health, if we’re not already there, I suppose.

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‘Sitting at the computer is killing us’

A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that standing burned approximately 0.15 kcal a minute more than sitting. The effects were more pronounced in men than women and over the course of six hours this could translate to 54 calories – and that’s around five Maltesers.

And over a year this may translate to 5.5 pounds of weight loss they said.

Previous studies have looked at the different number of muscles that are involved in standing compared to sitting.

During standing, more muscles are tensed and stretched to fight gravity and bear weight.

However, while there’s no doubt that too much sitting down is bad for us, with increased risk of heart failure, disability risk, diabetes and obesity, the jury is still out in terms of measuring the full health benefits of the standing desk. Certainly, leaving your desk to go for a walk is a better in terms of burning calories, around 210 an hour more than standing still, but studies have so far proved inconclusive as to the overall potential for weight loss given a whole host of other lifestyle factors involved.

The increased muscle activity as a result of standing up may even lead to greater calorie intake. One colleague who favours the standing desk says the health benefits have been “enormous”, claiming working in an upright position is the difference between them being able to work and being off sick.

Among the benefits cited are a release of tension in the shoulders and increased mobility.

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Health experts say the average worker sits for about 10 hours when you factor in plowing through emails, making calls and of course checking up on their all-important social media.

Not every employer is going to fork out for a stand-up or treadmill desk, which can cost anything from £200-£1,000 depending on whether you want the basics or something akin to the flight deck from the Starship Enterprise.

We don’t all work for Google or Microsoft – said to have bought a job lot of standing desk for employees – or in the kind of office where staff use the latest Segways to move about.

Apparently, we should all aim to stand up at work for at least two hours a day and work our way towards four. This may seem a lot but simple things like moving the printer to the back of the office or, dare I say, actually going to speak to a colleague instead of sending an email will get workers off their backsides. The standing desk is all the rage but before we start threatening strike action if we don’t get one, perhaps educating staff to leave their workstations more often is a sensible solution.

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