Friday, August 25, 2017

Stand by your desk? Sit down, you’re rocking the boat? What are us desk jockeys to do?

A few years back, a doctor working on obesity issues came up with a new mantra: sitting is the new smoking.

Worse than smoking, maybe. After all, you might walk a mile – a healthful mile – for a Camel. But sitting on your duff at your desk? Stop kidding yourself; you’re killing yourself.

Oh, you may have thought that parking your carcass on a pricey ergonomic chair, rather than spending the day swiveling around on a glorified steno pool chair that provided no back support, was somehow going to save you. But, no…

Dozens of studies  have drawn connections between sitting too long and diabetes, hypertension, some forms of cancer (especially in women), anxiety and a generally greater probability of early death. (Source: Bloomberg)

The specifics:

When a body sits for an extended time, blood pools in the legs, and the arteries there lose some of their ability to dilate. Metabolism slows, and with it the healthy functioning of various biochemical operations. That in turn leaves the body more vulnerable to the physical and psychological effects of sedentary living.

And as if early death and anxiety, slowed metabolism, and arteries that don’t dilate properly aren’t bad enough:

There’s also the risk of a weak, flat backside.

Now I know that, in the age of Kardashian and BeyoncĂ©, a flat backside is a “thing.” And not necessarily a good thing. Thus, we read those horror stories about women with Brazilian butt lifts gone bad. Not to mention that just last week, at a get together with two old college friends – a get together that involved shopping – the conversation quite naturally turned to whether and why women of Irish ethnicity didn’t tend toward bootylicous booties to shake. (Not that women our age are doing much booty shaking, even when they have them.)

But I’d never heard of a weak backside.

Weak brain. Weak back. Weak bladder. Weak knee. But weak backside? What are the implications of a weak backside?

Man, all these years sitting on my rump, and I may have flattened and weakened a backside that was not especially ample to begin with. Jeez Louise Linton.

One of the outcomes of all the bad outcomes associated with prolonged duff-sitting is the rise of the standing desk.

When I was still working full-time, the alternatives to sitting in a desk chair were having one of those blue bouncy balls, or having one of the ergonomic kneeling chairs. But I’ve noticed that standing desks are an option for most of my clients (mostly tech firms with a lot of young folks working there).

Of course, it hasn’t been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that sitting is worse than smoking. No unequivocal Surgeon’s General Report. No skull and crossbones warning on your desk chair. (Nothing will replace those “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law” tags.) In fact, there have been some findings popping up that suggest that sitting ain’t all that bad.

And whether standing desks help is a subject of some dispute.

Nonetheless, the number of companies that offer standing desks has tripled since 2013.

I have a few doubts about just how wonderful and glorious all this standing is.

I have tendonitis in my right ankle. Walking is fine. I’m able to do my 4-5 Fitbit miles each day, no problema. But when I’m standing for any amount of time, the tendonitis kicks up or kicks in. This doesn’t happen as part of my work. If I’m working, I’m sitting on my weakening, flattening backside. But I’m doing some volunteering at St. Francis House, and whether I’m in the kitchen or in the clothing center, there are oodles of time when I’m standing stock-still scooping salads or sorting through piles of donated clothing items.

And there’s some research that suggests that:

…standing too long creates problems of its own: swollen ankles, leg cramps, varicose veins, posture problems, lasting muscle fatigue and back pain.

So, is it stand by your desk? Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down, you’re cramping your legs?

Fortunately, there’s a middle ground.

…walk around — for a couple of minutes once an hour, or for five or 10 minutes a few times a day. This gets the blood and breath flowing moderately. Toe tapping and other kinds of fidgeting help, as well, whether sitting or standing.

Let the toe tapping begin!

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