I have read recently 2 articles written by upstanding professional people stating that standing to work is less healthy than sitting and therefore the concept of sit stand working is wrong. One therefore is lead to conclude that the whole industry of standing desks and active working is flawed and should shut up shop and go away.
This blog is written to inform you that these recently written articles are fake news, written with little understanding of the subject and the scientific data that supports the concept of active working.
Firstly, let me agree with the authors of these pieces, on some genuine information in the articles. Prolonged standing is not healthy. Ask a guardsman in Horse Guards Parade, though I suppose you can’t as they are not allowed to speak to you, or more practically a track worker at Land Rover who will tell you in very eloquent “Brummie” that he is not happy having just stood up for a long shift. There is science here with Waters article (1) among others stating that prolonged standing can lead to back pain, leg pain and cardiovascular problems.
There is a vast array of data now available stating that sitting is not healthy either and that sitting really is the new smoking; which puts a new slant on the idea of passive(ly) sitting! Wilmot (2) in a large study of 800,000 subject concluded that the people who sat the most compared to the ones who sat the least were at
- 112% increase in risk of diabetes
- 147% increase in cardiovascular events
- 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
- 49% increase in death from any cause
This article alone strikes me as compelling and is the reason why western world governments are starting to act on the pandemic of preventable diseases that is afflicting the world. The number of Diabetics in the UK having risen by 59.8% in the last decade alone according to Diabetes UK.(3) This is a staggering statistic for a largely preventable disease.
As with most things in life we are talking about balance to find the truth. Alan Bridges recently presented his excellent work in London and presented the modestly named “Bridges 3S’ work pattern”. This ideal and theoretical idea consists of for every 30 minutes of work you should sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes and stretch and stroll for 2 minutes. Put in pragmatic language that means don’t sit for hours at a time and then do prolonged exercise (see my next Blog for more on this), but break up the day with lots of different activities where you can as often as you can otherwise you will never actually get any work done!
To conclude, as a population we need to get off our butts more, (and probably eat less of and better foods), and employers need to be involved in this as much as individuals to take responsible for the health of the workforce and assist employees to take a personal responsibility in their own health.
- Waters, T et al (2015) Evidence of Health Risks Associated with Prolonged Standing at Work and Intervention Effectiveness. Rehabili Nurs 40(3):148-65.
- Wilmot,E (2012) Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis Diabetologia Volume 55, Issue 11, pp 2895-2905
- Diabetes UK (2015) https://www.diabetes.org.uk/About_us/News/diabetes-up-60-per-cent-in-last-decade-/
If you wish to know more about sit stand working or active working strategies please do not hesitate to contact