How long do you reckon you spend sitting down each day? Bet it’s longer than you think. Research shows that many of us are seated for ten hours or more – and that has a big impact on our health.
Sitting in the same position for a long time – whether it’s at work or languishing in front of the TV – can lead to neck ache, back pain and repetitive strain injury. And there’s even talk of the ‘killer chair’. Prolonged sitting is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, raised blood pressure, colorectal cancer and poor mental health so I encourage my patients to get up and move more – every half hour if possible.
Research shows that interrupting sitting time, even with short bouts of light- or moderate-intensity walking in obese and overweight adults, improves blood sugar levels and reduces fatigue.
But what happens if you have to spend a lot of time chained to your workstation? One solution is the sit-stand desk – a bit of kit that gives you the ability to raise or lower your desk in seconds, so that you can be either in a sitting or standing position while you work.
Having read research on standing desks in the medical journal BMJ, we decided to try one out – and by ‘we’, I mean my lovely in-house guinea pig and husband, Michael. I suspect he needs it more than me – I usually sit fairly upright on the edge of my chair and, as a GP, I rarely get a chance to remain seated for more than ten minutes. He, however, slumps, hunched with arms outstretched over the keyboard for hours and I worry that this will affect his posture and cause back pain.
So I ordered a Varidesk, which arrived in a dauntingly large, heavy flat-pack, and we skirted round it for a week, neither of us wanting to embark on a major assembly process. Eventually, Michael decided to wrangle it into shape – and two minutes later, the desk, computer monitor and keyboard were all in place, no assembly required.
It’s a stand that you put on your existing desk with the computer on top. While you sit it can remain flat. Then, using the spring-assisted mechanism, you can raise it to your height of choice and find a relaxed position when standing. It feels sturdy enough to stand close, resting your forearms comfortably on the ‘counter’ level.
If you are a paper scatterer, you may find it frustrating balancing all the sheets rather than spreading them around the desk, but if you are mainly typing and using the screen it is transformative.
Research in the BMJ analysed 146 desk-based workers who were allocated either a standing workstation or their usual seated position to find out whether reducing sitting time would have an impact on work-related psychological health. The standing group were given targets for the amount of time they should spend on their feet and were monitored using a movement meter over a year. So what happened?
Compared with the group who stayed seated, the standers showed improvements in ‘job performance, work engagement, occupational fatigue, presenteeism, daily anxiety and quality of life’ as well as some improvement in musculoskeletal problems. There was no change in their daily step count or physical activity during the same period, so researchers put these improvements down to the standing.
I can already see a noticeable difference in Michael’s posture when he stands straight at his desk, and he says he now prefers being on his feet as it keeps him alert while writing.
So stand up – for your health, comfort, energy levels, ability to focus, mood and productivity.
For more information go to uk.varidesk.com
Too much stuffing? Try turmeric tea
To offset the festive indulgence of the coming days, a cup of turmeric tea will do the trick – in fact, it is absorbed best after a fatty meal.
Turmeric is the bright yellow, slightly earthy spice renowned for its health benefits and antioxidant properties including reducing inflammation, lowering blood sugar, boosting the immune system and possibly reducing the risk of cancer.
Put a finely sliced 2cm piece of turmeric root (or ½ tsp ground turmeric), ½ tsp ground cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon in a large mug. Fill with boiling water then steep for five minutes. Sip, stirring occasionally, and enjoy.