The digital age is stamping its authority on your DNA with obesity and backache. Fortunately, there’s an everyday way to fight back: do things standing up.
By Ray Klerck
Life. You’re literally taking it sitting down. You sit to eat your breakfast. Sit in the car, bus or train for the journey to work. You park at your desk all day, then reverse the commute home so you can kick back on the couch.
Trouble is, you’re not actually meant to be sitting this much, which explains why a Nielsen study discovered that more than half of all Australians suffer back pain. It’s no coincidence that the same percentage of Australians are also obese. Whether you drive a mouse or a truck, blokes are now on their arses for lengthy periods, minimising their calorie burn and putting their spines in crippling positions.
It’s also no surprise that researchers at Queensland University found that injuries to office workers have rocketed recently. “If you sit around too much long-term, such as a desk job with no sport in your spare time, the muscles can slowly change in a bad way, giving you a bigger risk of hurting your back,” says Dr Daniel Belavy, the study’s lead researcher.
Seems the average mouse potato is owed more danger pay than a crocodile farmer.
It takes a little more effort to do more things standing, but way worth it if you consider that it’ll minimise your time in a pine box. Regardless of the amount of exercise blokes did, those who sat for fewer than six hours a day lived longer, found research in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
What’s more, you’ll burn around 50 extra calories each hour if you alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day — if you stood for four hours a day you’d burn an extra 200 calories. Over 12 months, this deficit would make you 10kg lighter.
Even fidgeting at your desk improves your cardiovascular fitness in the long term, found research in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise. “You increase your metabolic rate between 10 and 20 percent simply by getting off your bottom — not walking anywhere, but simply standing up,’’ says Dr James Levine, professor of medicine with the Mayo Clinic.
It’s clear why generous pants sizes are yoked with today’s “please be seated” trend. If you’re having trouble getting six-packed, the time spent on your behind could be behind it.
Your glutes not only top the women’s most-wanted lists, but they’re also your most valuable fat-burning and sports performance assets. “The most prevalent weaknesses in recreational athletes are their glutes,” says Ben Coles, a physiotherapist with a Masters in sports therapy. “This is because we sit on them all day, reducing blood flow to them so your body almost forgets how to switch them on. They’re your biggest muscles and affect the performance of all your muscles.”
So if you’re booting a ball, hiking a trail or surfing a break, you’ll perform better with glutes, core muscles and legs that aren’t inactive all day. The solution? Think of your chair as a wolf in cheap clothing and use a stand-up desk. Yep, they’re more dear, but in the long term you’ll be leaner and live longer.
“People who use sit-stand desks not only have less discomfort, but also report being more productive at work while relieving RSI and back pain,” says Matt Baker, an ergonomist and corporate-seating specialist (badbacks.com.au).
Legs to stand on
If you have back pain at work, get a doctor’s note about your condition and hit up your HR department to buy a height-adjustable desk. And if you’re niggle-free then you’ll benefit by improving your athletic prowess.
“The enzymes in blood vessels of muscles responsible for fat-burning are shut off within hours of not standing,” says Marc Hamilton, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia. So if you’ve been training hard, eating right and still not getting lean, then being upright at work will help you take a stand against even the mother of all fat-loss plateaus and get memorably lean.