We’re often asked to stand up for things we want or believe in, but what if we were asked to stand up for our health: literally.
Medical research has slowly been coming to the conclusion that our culture of sitting at desks could well be harming our health, with potentially increased risks of diabetes, heart disease and even death. Studies from Loughborough and Leicester Universities, using almost 800,000 people have shown that those who spend increased time sitting or lying down would benefit by moving more.
Interestingly the harm is done even if exercise is also a part of their daily regime. Dr Emma Wilmot of the Diabetes Group at the University of Leicester pointed out that whilst going to the gym or pool after work is better than heading straight for the sofa, spending a long time sitting down remains bad for you.
The whole concept of sitting as the norm in workplaces is a recent innovation, points out Jeremy Myerson, professor of design at the Royal College of Art. ‘If you look at the late 19th Century, Victorian clerks could stand at their desks and moved around a lot more. It’s possible to look back at the industrial office of the past 100 years or so as some kind of weird aberration in a 1000 year continuum of work where we’ve always moved around.’
Advocates say that standing would benefit health, energy and creativity, and large corporations and organisations are starting to take note. ‘It’s becoming more well known that long periods of sedentary behaviour has an adverse effect on health’, says Jonathan McGregor, an engineer at General Electric, ‘so we’re looking at bringing in standing desks.’
One UK desk manufacturer confirmed that Google had recently fitted a large number of these at its London office. ‘If what we are creating are environments where people are not going to be terribly healthy and are suffering from diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes,’ says Professor Alexi Marmot, a specialist on workplace design, ‘It’s highly unlikely the organisation benefits in any way.’
Sometimes we need to move on from the accepted practices of the past, and embrace new ways of working. A happy and healthy staff promotes a hard-working and creative culture that can benefit your business, your clients and even society at large.
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