Is sitting the new smoking?
Nature designed human bodies to be in constant movement throughout the day, but when modern office jobs plant us in seated positions, only our fingertips get a workout. Now there is compelling evidence that prolonged sitting kills, even if you exercise regularly. In fact, the paradigm that moderate physical exertion, such as going for a run, promotes good health may be completely wrong. New research is instead showing that sedentary behavior is our primary health problem and anything that stops us from sitting will increase our fitness. Take a stand against sitting with a beautifully designed tool that brings new meaning to the term “internet surfing”.
Many office workers are turning to standing desks to combat the health problems that come from a desk-bound job, but athlete and designer Joel Heath found his new standing desk to cause nearly as much physical discomfort as his old office chair. He told Fast Company, “I started experiencing pain in different places. There had to be a better way. So I began to play with the idea that if you put a subtle rocker under the foot, you could move out of a sedentary state.”
Our bodies move in three dimensions. Sitting at a desk doesn’t allow for this, and standing at a desk doesn’t do much to increase our range of movement. Heath designed a surfboard-like platform that allows users to comfortably shift their weight as they stand on their feet and work, an ergonomic addition to a stationary standing desk that instantly increased the user’s range of motion by over 20% and heart rate by 15%.
The FluidStance Level elicits subtle, constant movement below your feet. It gently exercises your legs, back and abdominal muscles and increases your heart rate. Feet flexing required to balance atop the device is comparable to what might happen if the user was walking. And there is no difference in the number of typing errors that someone makes standing on The Level compared to the same person seated in a chair.
So how easy is it to acclimate? “It’s the first 10 minutes that I can tell someone has never been on it. From behind, you can see their fine twitch muscles working, and as they relax into it, you see their body already knows how to move,” said Heath.
Our screen-driven lives are leading to increases in cancer, heart disease, and depression. Last January the British Medical Journal reported on the hazards of our seated lives, summarizing the findings from the 2015 Inaugural Active Working Summit, which reviewed the health effects of sitting. Sitting was found to increase the risk of death from almost all health problems, from type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease to cancer and all-cause mortality. One study concluded that the mortality rate from sitting is rate similar to smoking, and it increases lung cancer by 54%, uterine cancer by 66%, and colon cancer by 30%.
The increased risks link to weight gain and associated biochemical changes, such as alterations in hormones, metabolic dysfunction, leptin dysfunction, and inflammation—all of which promote cancer. Research also shows that your risk for anxiety and depression rises right along with hours spent in your chair, all very strong evidence to seriously consider eliminating as much sitting as you can.
The Level is the first product from the FluidStance company, introduced in a successful Indiegogo campaign with the first units shipping in April. The Level costs about as much as a high quality office chair, about $300. So what if you want to get moving without denting your wallet?
Keep track of how much you’re sitting each day, and make an effort to cut it, little by little, each week. When watching TV, stand up and/or walk around during commercial breaks. Take all your phones calls standing up. I sat for an hour reading medical reports for this article, followed by another hour setting up a standing desk. Let’s see how easy it it to adapt.
Images from FluidStance website