Sitting is the new smoking
“Sitting is the new smoking”. If you haven’t heard this phrase before it was coined by Dr James Levine, director of the Mayo clinic – Arizona State University Obesity Solutions initiative and, incidentally, inventor of the treadmill desk… yes, you heard me right, the treadmill desk, available online here! As you probably know by now, we like to be at the cutting edge of everything, not just media, so when we set up our new offices recently, we figured it was time to rethink the dreary, ‘let’s-all-just-sit-down-at-our-desks-all-day-to-do-our-work’; I mean, really, it’s so 2012, right?
For much of our life at FPS we are on the road, filming with clients, lugging huge boxes of equipment around; yes, if you’re wondering we are particularly muscly! I’ll just let that image sit with you for a while… there we go! But there are periods, in editing for instance where, like many office based workers, a sedentary culture is the norm. We become completely focussed and can often work, slumped over a screen for many hours when we’re in the zone without realising often, I have to admit without eating, drinking or nipping off to the loo. And here’s what we discovered: It’s killing us… literally, according to Levine whose research over the last few years reveals that ‘sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death’. There are clear links that prolonged sitting is linked with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and various types of cancer. Scary right!
So what did you do in your new offices, I hear you cry? Well we couldn’t just ignore the research. Our bodies are temples… some larger temples than others, but I digress. So most of us opted for standing desks – I don’t think we were quite ready for the treadmill desk just yet. But when we looked at the design we wanted for our office and came across these (other suppliers are available and this isn’t a recommendation of the company), the health benefits were pretty undeniable. It sounds dramatic I know, but there is evidence to support this. A sit/standing desk (this means it’s height adjustable, allowing you to both sit and stand) will set you back upwards of about £300, so pretty comparable with any other desk. Of course the reality is we do want to sit down at times – standing all day is equally not great for you but a combination of actively moving throughout the day is what is recommended.
Nutritionist, Joe Leech, suggests a number of science based benefits of a standing desk:
- Standing lowers your risk of weight gain and obesity – in fact standing for the equivalent of the afternoon burns 170 more calories than if you were sitting.
- It could lower your blood sugar levels – High levels of blood sugar can be linked to type 2 diabetes (often associated with obesity). A study revealed that alternating between sitting and standing every 30 minutes throughout the workday reduced blood sugar spikes by 11.1% on average.
- It could lower your risk of heart disease – it’s widely accepted that the more time we spend sitting on our backsides, the greater the risk of heart disease.
- Reduces back pain and improves mood – One study showed that reduced time spent sitting by 66 minutes per day reduced upper back pain and neck pain by 54% and improved mood states.
- There’s a chance they will boost productivity – one of the common concerns is that standing will result in more errors in typing and hindrance of routine tasks. In fact, most studies have shown that this is not the case and, indeed, might even boost productivity.
So, we were sold on the idea and went with it and we haven’t looked back. Indeed, we’ve even been mulling over some of the wider health implications of an office based job and these are some of our recommendations:
- When ever possible walk to work or cycle – We can’t recommend this highly enough. If it’s feasible to walk or cycle to work, do it. It will increase your heart rate, reduce your fuel bill and reduce your carbon footprint on the planet.
- Get rid of the sweets dish – Yes, you heard me. Get rid of it. The trouble is, if you’re anything like me, one just isn’t enough. I open a pack of Haribo and ten minutes later I’m wondering which of my colleagues at them all before I realise I’m the only person in the office! So instead, we recommend binning the sugar and opting for a healthier snack like unsalted nuts and mixed fruit in your bowl.
- Remember to drink water – Ideally you want to be aiming for around 2 litres a day. Recently I’ve bought myself a water bottle that allows me to record how many bottles I have drunk in a day and this has really helped me to keep track of it. The health benefits of drinking water regularly are well documented and include increased performance and energy, lowers stress and has benefits to your skin (read more about the benefits of water here).
- Take a lunch break – All too often we don’t make time to have lunch. At best, we eat our lunch hunched over our desk and at worst, we just don’t bother with it at all. Instead be intentional about having a lunch break. Bring something light with you, ideally low in carbohydrate, as this is what makes you sleepy after lunch and eat with your colleagues, taking time to connect with them and get to know them.
So… get yourself down to the nearest health food store, get rid of the sugary snacks, buy yourself a standing table and walk to walk. Just remember to give me a nod as we pass each other on the high street!