April 22, 2011

∴ Standing Work

I spend most of my work days using a computer in one way or another. And, as is the case for most computer users, that entails sitting at a desk. A recent health study, revealing the effects of sitting much of the time, got me to thinking about how much of my time beyond work hours involves being seated.

I realized that I spend almost all of my hours on my butt. Commuting morning and evening, relaxing during and after dinner, riding in the car to run errands, traveling, visiting. I run three days a week, but that’s only three or so hours every seven days. Here’s what that health study had to say about what that might mean for my health:

This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.(NYT via Smarterware.com)

So I joined a bunch of other people who’re tied to a desk at work, and re-set my workstation as a standing desk (that's an example, not mine) this week. Before you get the urge to say, I know, Donald Rumsfeld does this, too. He’s only one of the more well-known practitioners.

The first couple of days have been uncomfortable. The bottoms of my feet, particularly, were painful by mid-day and my legs gained a few more aches than I get from a long run. From what I read, these pains should depart by the second week. It may take a bit longer for me to find relief, though, because my telework days still involve a traditional, seated workstation.

Kelly spends most of her workday on her feet running our shop. She’s been known to complain of sore feet, too, and she’s been doing this work for over six years. So I’m wondering just how much easier this is going to get for me.

For now it advances something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It seems like every time I turn around, some other aspect of modern living is shown to be unhealthy for me. The cure is often to change that aspect in a way reminiscent of how people used to eat, work, play and live. Maybe it’s just modern living itself that’s hurting us.