Ester Marsh column: Sitting at a desk all day takes toll on health

  • Posted: Monday, March 3, 2014 1:32 a.m.

The “at home” exercises and stretches spurred some interest for people who spend the majority of the day behind a desk.

First of all, there have been numerous reports on how unhealthy it is to sit all day, even when people exercise daily before or after work. To be honest, I was very taken by the numbers. As we know, there are many jobs that are behind a desk and a computer for the majority of the work day. First, I will give you reasons why it is so unhealthy followed by ways to become healthier behind a desk.


1. According to a recently-published study by the University of Missouri, prolonged sitting increases diabetes, obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This was even with daily exercise (I was very disappointed to hear that).

2. Over a 13-year stretch, women who sit 6 or more hours per day, their death risk increases by 40 percent more than the women who sit less than 3 hours per day. Another study for men and women says sitting more than 11 hours per day increases that risk by 40 percent.

3. A study from a British journal of sports medicine reported that every hour in front a TV will take 22 minutes of your life.

4. MSNBC reports that prolonged sitting is responsible for 170,000 cancers yearly, with breast cancer and colon cancer being the most influenced by inactivity.

5. Another study from the UK says it makes your butt bigger, or as they say, your bottom. Due to the increased pressure for prolonged times, your body can put 50 percent more fat there than usual.

6. The risk to die of a heart attack increases by 54 percent for those who sit the majority of the time

Scary, right? Fortunately, by nature, I can't sit still for a long period of time. However, not too many people have that “problem.” Looking at all of the reports, I consider myself lucky.

So what can we do?

Experts recommend a ratio of 50:50 sitting and standing. Before you throw your chair away, purchase a high desk and start standing all day long, prolonged standing can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, especially in the knees, legs and lower back.

So what can we do?

Maybe have two work stations, one where you can sit and one where you can stand. Or, stand with phone calls (of course wireless/cellphone needed).

Frequent office laps will help with your circulation and metabolism. Instead of waiting for your pile of papers to get higher, make more trips to the departments for delivery or retrieval.

And when making the office laps, take the stairs instead of the elevator.

For desk exercises, refer back to the column I did for home exercises from a chair.

A treadmill desk seems to have become popular. However, I am not sure if they will go mainstream since the are much more expensive than an office chair. The treadmill goes slow, such as one mile per hour, and on the panel is a small desk. The guy who did the research loved it so much he still is using it.

Sitting on a yoga ball is still sitting, but you use a lot of core muscles to keep balanced. And, unlike a chair, you can't just roll to the other side of your cubicle to grab something — you actually have to get up.

Conduct active meetings. Instead of sitting around a table, get up and go for a walk in the park, track or parking lot for meetings. Of course, it would be for a small group unless you can use speaker phone and everyone has their phone with them.

I know plenty of you who have jobs where you sit all day and are very active with your daily exercise. Make sure you move around the office regularly. And, for all the others who have sit down positions, don't become part of these statistics — get up and move!

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