The Dangers of Sedentary Work
Posted on April 26, 2022 | in Ergonomics
Lack of movement during working hours (at home or in the office) contributes to physical and emotional pain and illness. It’s time to move!
The human body is made for movement. It turns out that, as studies show, people who work in offices or home offices spend between 10 to 11 hours a day in a seated position. Occupations in which there is little or no movement of our bodies are known as “sedentary work” and are characterized by a low energy expenditure, similar to the energy expenditure we have at rest.
The increased automation of activities and the development of new technologies have meant that citizens do not need to move that much anymore. Despite seeming banal, the simple fact of spending most of the day sitting down poses health risks at different levels and regardless of whether you exercise outside of working hours. Yes, sedentary work can be detrimental to our health even if we go to the gym after our working hours.
A sedentary lifestyle at work impairs our metabolic balance, generating more insulin resistance (when the body cannot take advantage of glucose in circulation), decreasing good cholesterol (HDL), elevating our triglycerides and potentially changing blood pressure. These factors culminate in a greater risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
Health Consequences of Sedentary Work
Research shows a relationship between sedentary occupations and the highest occurrence of heart attack, stroke, and premature death. Yes, it’s serious stuff! Another association that has already been examined relates to depression: workers who sit for more than nine and a half hours a day tend to experience more depressive episodes.
In addition to metabolic and mental disorders, sedentary work can cause pain in the lumbar spine and neck. As much as the workstation and devices such as laptops, mouses and monitors are suitable in terms of ergonomics, the lack of movement causes tension, increases psychosocial stress and can intensify pain.
How to Reduce the Consequences of Sedentary Work
The first step to reduce these negative effects is to be aware of your behavior— to know for how long you remain seated.
Keep reminders every hour to get up from your chair. Incorporating standing and walking activities for more than two and a half hours a day helps to protect cardiovascular health and minimize back and neck discomfort.
Pay attention to small tensions in the body and get out of the position for a few minutes, stretch and have brief moments of physical activity at work. For example: walking up and down three flights of stairs at a moderate pace three times a day. This already counts to reduce sedentary lifestyle and improve cardiorespiratory fitness. These brief moments of physical activities at work are called “exercise snacks” and are very powerful in minimizing the negative effects of sedentary behavior.
Take advantage of technology. Today, there are cell phone apps that help us calculate the number of steps per day (pedometers, encouraging the ideal of 10,000 steps daily) and monitor our pace of activity. We can also utilize sit-stand workstations, which invite us to work while standing for periods of time (a welcome thing for the spine). Research shows that sit-stand workstations improve the metabolic balance and decrease the chance of musculoskeletal disorders, like low back pain.
Always remember—the fight against a sedentary lifestyle involves the movement of work.