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Why sitting may be the key to unlocking your body.

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Why sitting may be the key to unlocking your body.

I have to admit I'm being a little playful with that title. The honest truth is I really struggle with prolonged periods of sitting. Even whilst following standard 'health and safety guidelines' at my desk at Penguin I was having real issues with being uncomfortable, fidgety and over the course of the day this felt quite oppressive.

Humans are not adapted to sitting all day, this in all seriousness could be having major implications for businesses around the world. Why? Because sitting can detrimentally affect productivity; furthermore given large populations of workers, the effects could be significant.

Frequently, health initiatives by companies that want to help improve the wellness of their workforce are stuck in a mode of thinking that does not consider movement and a movement environment. The workspace is significant factor in contributing to deteriorating health of the workforce. I'm all for healthy options at the canteen, but if the office environment fails to recognise movement I think there's significant trick being missed.

So what am I suggesting? Initially, I’d like to see more companies pioneer stand up desks. Mark Sissons, describes the benefits better than me – http://www.marksdailyapple.com/sitting-unhealthy/#axzz3Omz2AECP . But ultimately these five points highlight the benefits:

  • Reduced Risk of Obesity
  • Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Other Metabolic Problems
  • Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
  • Reduced Risk of Cancer
  • Lower Long-Term Mortality Risk

Many businesses are committed to ‘Wellbeing’ but real successes are not made for 30 mins in the gym breaking a sweat, it’s in the micro habits that we build across our days and weeks.

I think desks like this will stimulate a change in thinking that will permeate to other areas of how the work place is organised and importantly how people behave in terms of movement and habits.

In the words of Charles Duhigg: “Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Businesses that offer standing desks will help build positive micro habits for their staff; it could start by creating a movement or flow of staff around a building, perhaps more interaction, followed by a reduction in crippling back pain that many office workers suffer from. It would allow us to align our spines naturally rather than spending money on a session with the house massage therapist to relieve chronic back pain, and tight hip flexors.

H&S advise office workers to get up from desks every 45 mins to loosen up, but rarely does this happen I believe, there’s always an excuse to not go for that lunch time walk (the weather, a bad night’s sleep, deadlines, emails, meetings etc). One study found that workers who spent large amounts of time sitting at their desks encountered a higher risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Those who used computers while sitting were at an even greater risk.

Ultimately, the workforce will become more PRODUCTIVE and potentially HAPPIER! Here’s an Australian study (PDF) which reveals that sitting at work leads to more sitting at home, and eventually obesity.

We often forget that we are physical beings and that movement is in our DNA. The progressive levels of motor competency a baby and child go through set the agenda for the ability to learn and master complex mental tasks in later life (cite. Sally Goddard Blythe). Forgetting our movement origins creates a perfect storm for mismatch diseases and conditions at odds with our ancestral heritage. We have ancient DNA that can’t evolve at the rate of modern conveniences, so rather than fighting it, let’s work with it!

Movement and thought are not separate, thought without movement is only half the picture.

The position we spend the most time in is the position we default to, and it's the position that underlies our training positions. This is why exercise does not always work for people.

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