A New Formula for How Long We Should Spend Sitting & Standing in a Workday
By Sumathi Reddy
New research is helping medical experts devise formulas for how long a typical office worker should spend sitting and standing.
Studies have found that sedentary behavior, including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Some ergonomics experts warn that too much standing also can have negative effects on health, including a greater risk for varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease.
“The key is breaking up your activity throughout the day,” said Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. “Sitting all day and standing all day are both bad for you,” he said.
For every half-hour working in an office, people should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes and then move around and stretch for two minutes, Dr. Hedge recommends, based on a review of studies that he has presented at corporate seminars and expects to publish. He says standing for more than 10 minutes tends to cause people to lean, which can lead to back problems and other musculoskeletal issues.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year published guidelines for sitting from an international panel of experts, including Dr. Hedge. The panel recommends a combined two to four hours of standing and light activity spread throughout the workday. And research from NASA has found that standing up for two minutes 16 times a day while at work is an effective strategy for maintaining bone and muscle density, Dr. Hedge says.
“The current scientific evidence shows that when people have occupations in which they are on their feet for more than two hours a day, there seems to be a reduction in the risk of developing key chronic diseases,” said John Buckley, a professor of applied exercise science at the University of Chester in England and lead author of the published guidelines.
Check back next week for information about other research focused on mitigating the adverse effects of too much sitting.
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2015.