A quick glance over the course of human history evidences one great fact about the human body: it was built to move. In the early days of our evolution, the survival of our species was dependent upon our ability to move, we hunted and gathered food on foot, escaped predators and migrated with the seasons. In fact, neurologist and scientist John Medina cites research suggesting that our typical early ancestor walked an average of twelve miles a day.
Today, most of us spend those twelve hours sitting.
And while the lack of movement no longer puts us at risk of being eaten by predators, it does present an equally imminent risk to our health in the form of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety; all of which lead to a premature death.Â
So, the question becomes, â€œhow do we intentionally include more movement during our working day?â€
Understanding the Problem
Before we can effectively answer this question, however, we must spend some time analyzing the problem. We know that sitting all day is hard on our bodies. Forcing our physical selves into an unnatural position for an extended period of time can result in sore muscles, joints and limbs.
In fact, sitting extensively actually changes the way that our body processes energy, slowing our metabolism and causing us to gain unhealthy weight. Recent research also suggests that sitting extensively causes healthy cholesterol levels to plummet. Bloomberg Businessweek explains:
â€œIf youâ€™re standing around and puttering, you recruit specialized muscles designed for postural support that never tire. Theyâ€™re unique in that the nervous system recruits them for low-intensity activity and theyâ€™re very rich in enzymes. One enzyme, lipoprotein lipase, grabs fat and cholesterol from the blood, burning the fat into energy while shifting the cholesterol from LDL (the bad kind) to HDL (the healthy kind).â€
However, Bloomberg goes on to state that this entire process is halted when you remain seated as opposed to standing:
â€œWhen you sit the muscles are relaxed, and enzyme activity drops by 90% to 95%, leaving fat to camp out in the bloodstream. Within a couple hours sitting, healthy cholesterol plummets by 20%.â€
If the crux of the problem many US workers face is that we sit too much and do not stand enough, the solution is clear: we must find a way to incorporate more stand-sit movement throughout the work period.
Of course, while movement is crucial, we still want to honor good ergonomic principles of efficiency and task orientation. What we seek, is a way to incorporate movement without interrupting work.
At VersaTables, we recognize the value in providing office furniture that fosters movement. Shifting positions in a purposeful and productive way is an important part of ergonomic living and working. For this reason, many of our products, such as adjustable computer carts and monitor mounts promote sit-stand workflow. Our office chairs and stools also promote natural movements between sitting and standing. Using such products is one way to incorporate more movement into your work routine.
A second solution can be presented by managerial staff in the workplace. By strategically placing shared equipment, such as printers, copy machines and fax machines in common areas you encourage workers to move between these products as they accomplish their various office tasks. By creating a workspace layout that is designed to co-foster full range movement along with efficiency and productivity, you can help your employees avoid muscle fatigue and strain. As an added bonus, placing common equipment in this manner also encourages more interaction among staff members, leading to further collaborative development and team-building.
If your workspace does not allow for effective full range movement, and you do not have to walk from location to location throughout the day to use equipment or attend meetings, it is still important that you incorporate restorative rest periods into your work routine. You should stand up at least once an hour and walk around for five minutes. During this time you can also implement some strategic stretches, designed to relieve your muscle tension and promote healthy circulation throughout your body.
Investing In Solutions
In working to change the way that we, as a culture and a people, work, the first step is in creating a stronger awareness about sitting and standing in the workplace. Even if every employee in your space, or every student and patient in your care, is provided with ergonomic furniture, research suggests that they will not effectively use it or change their work habits unless they are trained in how to use ergonomic products and reminded regularly to use them. Simply providing a worker with adjustment features on furniture that facilitate a sit stand workflow is not enough, they must actually be educated about the importance of this work style and reminded to incorporate more movement into their routine. Â VersaTables Workspace Planner Tool, and numerous other resources, can be used to facilitate proper sit-stand setup and training.
Organizations who first invest in such products, and then invest in training their employees about the proper ways to use these products experience large dividends in return. Research suggests that employees who are trained and reminded about sit-stand procedures will soon incorporate standing as a regular part of their work day.
Such movement not only serves the individual bodies of employees, but serves the collective body of their organization. When incorporating more full range movement into a work setting, corporations can expect to see an increase in employee productivity and satisfaction and a decrease in work-related injuries.