There is growing evidence of the dangers of prolonged sitting, and the modern economy makes more people it. Luckily, we finally have some popular interest in this important topic.
I believe it was this study, Television Viewing Time and Mortality: The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab), 2010, that started the recent spate of media coverage of the dangers of sitting.
It is the latest in a number of Australian research projects (1996, 2003, etc.) examining the correlation between the low energy expenditure of sedentary activities and the increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other pathologies.
These studies looked specifically at television viewing time, but it seems reasonable to think that sitting at a desk (or any other sedentary seated activity) would present similar risks. In fact, the studies mentioned in my first post on the perils of sitting, show this to be true.
Now look at the growth of office work over the past century or so. This graph shows the huge changes in the work force brought about by deindustrialization – steep declines in primary (farming, mining, etc.) and secondary (construction, manufacturing, etc.) activities and rapid growth in tertiary (services) and quaternary (research, design and development) activities, most of which take place in an office.
So, we have growing evidence of the hazards of sitting and more and more people doing it. This is indeed a dangerous situation.
I have seen lots of anecdotal evidence of the responses to this, most of them involving standing up – a logical response to the sitting problem.
Many of my friends and clients are now using stand-up workstations and desks, often cleverly improvised set-ups.
There also appears to be a growing commercial response to this situation. I wish I had thought to note the number of results at Amazon for a search on stand-up desk when I first looked in 2008. When you do that search today, you get 598 results.
There are, of course, other solutions besides standing at your desk, and I’ll look at those in future posts.