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At Work, Sitting Is Out and Standing Is In. Is That A Good Thing?

Sitting for prolonged periods of time has recently gotten a bad rap—and, as it turns out, it’s not undeserved. Research has shown that sitting for long stretches is associated with an increased risk of several chronic diseases, as well as an increased risk of death. Because of this research, and because some people simply prefer not to sit for hours on end, standing desks have become popular in offices around the world. So, you work standing up and the problem’s solved, right? Not quite. In a new study of men and women who did standing work for 5 hours, researchers found that they had an increase in muscle fatigue at the end of the day that lasted longer than 30 minutes, and participants reported feeling fatigued for about 30 minutes. This fatigue occurred despite the fact that participants were allowed to take brief, seated breaks and a 30-minute lunch. Standing for hours at a time also places an increased weight load on the veins, back and joints (which is especially problematic for people who are overweight), and causes a decrease in the performance of some fine motor skills. But if sitting and standing for too long can both be harmful—and since we can’t levitate—is there a way we can work safely and be productive? Yes. According to at least one expert in ergonomics, the key is variety—at work, people should sit, stand, and, most importantly, move. That way, you get the best of both worlds, as well as the benefits from light, physical activity. Here are some tips to balance out your sitting and standing:

  • Try not to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time, and try not to stand for more than 8 minutes at a time.
  • Take two-minute moving breaks twice an hour to stretch or walk around.

Source: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

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