Society is based on sitting. We sit in school; we sit to eat; we sit to read; we sit in traffic; we sit to work. It is estimated that more than half of the average American’s waking life is spent sitting. For most federal employees, I believe that number is even higher.
I have 27 years of federal service, and my jobs have ranged from a social insurance specialist to paralegal specialist to financial management specialist to budget analyst. All of which required long periods of sitting.
I am sure that I am not alone when I say that I come to work and sit at my desk for the entire workday. Unfortunately, I learned “the hard way” just how much damage could be done by sitting for too long. Basically, I have “wreaked havoc” on my entire musculoskeletal system by sitting. Even light physical exertion, i.e. walking on the treadmill, has become a chore.
According to an article in this week’s Los Angeles Times, sitting for long hours elevates risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and early death. Not surprisingly, the article suggests giving hazard pay to those who sit for long hours in meetings, on phone calls, and tapping away at keyboards.
Hazard pay may not come to fruition, so for the New Year, I decided to do some research to undo what has been done. It seems that those who engage in regular physical activity but still spend a large proportion of their day in sedentary activity were 30% less likely to die of any cause than those who get little to no exercise.
The article recommends (1) getting up for one to three minutes every half-hour to move around (2) standing or exercising while seated at the monitor (3) aiming for two to three fewer sedentary hours in a 12-hour day (4) exercising regularly to reduce sedentary time. Such activities should lower the risk of illness and improve survival prospects. If you are like me and have no alternative to logging long hours in a chair, you need to “get moving.”
The Los Angeles Times article also suggested standing desks, but I found what I believe is a better alternative, i.e. an office with no chairs or desks. A prototype of the office design is now on display in Amsterdam; it offers places to lean which is a healthier and a more active way to work than anything that has come before. The new office is designed to help combat the health problems that the typical desk job can contribute to or exacerbate. Throughout the day, employees can lean in different positions and keep moving around the room. The concept is the opposite of the office chair which has evolved into a “monster” over time. The office chair forces you to sit eight hours or more in the same way every day. The goal of the new office is to put more pressure on your legs during the day and take different positions.
Honestly, I never thought I would be “in the position” (excuse the pun) that I am with physical illnesses all due to sitting. I really think it would be great if offices universally implement ways to get their employees out of their seats. I would also find it interesting to hear from others who have dealt with the sitting dilemma. Meanwhile, I will “keep it moving.” After all, the new office prototype may not show up in federal offices anytime soon.
Cynthia V White is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.