Is Sitting Really The New Smoking?
Have you heard of sitting disease? I’ve heard of it. I didn’t know if it was real though. There was no generally accepted definition of sitting disease that I could find. After consulting Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and Wikipedia, I concluded this was the current version of couch potato.
Hearing about sitting disease reminds of the first time I heard about restless leg syndrome (RLS). I was skeptical. RLS is real. RLS is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs.
Then I started thinking more about the concept of sitting disease. Isn’t this just another way of saying sedentary lifestyle? Everyone can generally agree that living a sedentary lifestyle is potentially unhealthy for people mentally, emotionally, and physically. Sitting disease seems more like a media-friendly and catchy way of saying we aren’t active because we sit all day long and at home too.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING RIGHT NOW?
I am sitting down right now as I type. There is a good chance that you will be sitting down when you read this post. The truth is that lawyers sit, a lot. We are sitters. At least historically, we are sitters. While we do rise when the judge enters the courtroom, we promptly sit thereafter. How much more sitting do we actually do in say 30 or 40 years? I’m afraid we probably sit more in 2015 than we did in 1975.
We drive to work. Commutes are longer. We tend to drive to jobs where we sit at a desk. We write fewer letters. We write more emails. We visit the bank and post office less. Now we have direct deposit. All those trips walking to the car, walking to the store, and running other errands in person are now gone. A lot of online shopping has eliminated the need to go and walk around the store or American shopping mall. Come to think of it, I remember shopping with my mother and her sisters, and my legs would be sore at the end of the day. I question whether my kids will ever have sore legs from being active in a commercial setting.
OKAY, FINE, I SIT A LOT, WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN?
So-called first world health problems can happen. Diseases like anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity, and chronic back pain to name a few. I remember reading in an NPR article from a few years back about China’s expanding middle class starting to experience more American healthcare problems. The reason was based on more Chinese citizens experiencing lifestyles that were similar to American offices and households. More Chinese citizens are taking buses and mass transit, and personal automobile ownership is also up. Which means less biking and walking in China. This trend is also continuing in India, Australia, and nearly all other emerging first world nations. The sedentary lifestyle is spreading and so are the consequences.
HOW MUCH DO WE SIT?
In 2010, Ergotron has launched an initiative dubbed JustStand.org to raise awareness of the dangers of sitting too much. (Side note: Ergotron makes and sells office desks, medical carts, charging systems, and all kinds of accessories. And yes, if Ergotron sells more standing desks it makes more money, however, I don’t think JustStand.org is a feigned grassroots attempt to simply sell more stand-up desks to make a profit.) JustStand cites a 2008 Vanderbilt study of 6,300 people published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluding that the average American sits 7.7 hours per day.
The equation is as follows:
Seated Commute Time + Seated Work + Seated Home Life = 7.7 hours per day.
If you want to calculate your daily sitting time, then please visit this Calculator.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO COMBAT SITTING DISEASE IN OUR PROFESSION?
- Stand more
- Buy a stand/sit desk
- Talk phone calls standing up
- Take a short walk once an hour
- Exercise thirty minutes a day
- Drink enough water (you’ll be walking to bathroom more)
- Stretch during the workday
- Check out a fitness tracker (like FitBit or the new Apple Watch)
OPTIONS IN STAND/SIT DESKS:
- Ikea’s desk is $489.
- XDesk has a nice stand/sit desk starting around $1,497.
- Focal makes a cool lean/stand desk for around $1,455.
My law partner, Randy, with the office next to mine has a NextDesk and he swears it makes his joints feels better and he experiences more sustained energy during the workday. I don’t have a stand up desk. Not yet, anyway.