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Is sitting the new smoking?

 Photo credit: Jacinda Bevilacqua

“Work” and “wellness” are not often used in the same sentence.

For those of us who sit down at our desk most of the day, health and wellbeing aren’t always easy to work into our lifestyles.

Sitting down all day long is one of the worst things for your health, as it increases the likelihood of heart disease and weight gain. Even heading to the gym after sitting for 6 or more hours a day can’t be countered by brief bouts of strenuous exercise.

Recently at Visionary, we were given the choice of turning in our regular desks for standing desks due to the research supporting the theory that sitting for long periods of time during the day could be detrimental to our health.

Research shows prolonged sitting, over time, increases the risk for:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Colon Cancer

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • obesity

  • high cholesterol

  • low back pain

Source: Women’s Health Magazine, Lisa DeStefano, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a spokesperson for the American Osteopathic Association

So, is sitting the new smoking? According to Dr. James Levine, Yes.

The director of the Mayo Clinic talks about the danger of prolonged sitting in his book Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You & What You Can Do About It.

Still skeptical?

AJ Jacobs, best-selling author, journalist, and lecturer, best known for writing about his lifestyle experiments, writes, in his book Drop Dead Healthy:

“We burn fewer calories when we’re sitting. The second part is more subtle but perhaps more profound: marathon sitting sessions change our body’s metabolism.”


What if you don’t have the option for a standing desk? Below are some tips for maintaining wellness in the workplace.

  • Drink enough water - The afternoon lull that many people feel can actually be due to dehydration. Click here for healthy coffee alternatives.

  • Take small breaks to go outside for sunshine and fresh air (smoke breaks don’t count!)

  • Smart snacking - pass on the donuts and bagels and snack on fresh fruit or mixed nuts.

  • Try an office chair exercise ball - when working on an exercise ball, your body is constantly making small adjustments to remain balanced and thus strengthening your body’s core which helps improve posture and guard against back injuries.

  • Instead of going out for drinks with friends, suggest a workout class to catch up after work.

  • Try deskercises! Such as office chair yoga, , or compete with your co-workers by doing sit-ups, push ups, or wall-sits for 60 seconds every hour.

Small changes, practiced consistently over time is the best way to increase health and well-being.

Another important part of workplace wellness is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Read some tips from our very own visionaries on how they have struck the right balance.

Some important things to remember when working at a standing desk:

  • A properly positioned monitor - place your screen at eye level and about 18 to 28 inches away, (or arms length) to limit strain on your eyes and neck.

  • Correct chair height - use a chair that supports your lower back and has adjustable height so you can sit with your knees parallel to the ground.

  • Both of your feet should be flat on the floor. If your feet can’t reach the floor, use a footrest or even a just a box.

  • A foot mat and supportive shoes can help alleviate foot fatigue.


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