Monday, October 3, 2011

Why Your Desk Job May Be Hurting You

The American workforce and the way that it operates across the country has changed incredibly over the last four to five decades.  Fifty years ago, laboring on a farm or in a factory was a common way to make ends meet.  Jump ahead thirty years and insert the web.  Today, a vast majority of Americans spend the better part of their work day at a desk staring into a computer screen, and when we aren't working, we social network, apply for jobs, search recipes, rent movies and do our banking all while sitting and staring into a computer screen.


An interesting study done by Pennington, the nation's leading obesity research center, studied individuals who exercised regularly and have a desk job, with individuals who don't exercise regularly but who do work that requires movement.  The results are probably not what you think.

Peter Katzmarzyk, Ph.D., of Pennington states that individuals who exercise regularly but who spend the better part of their day sitting at a desk, are most likely not leading the overall active life that they assumed.  Katzmarzyk's colleague Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., agrees.  "People tend to view physical activity on a single continuum," he says. "On the far side, you have a person who exercises a lot; on the other, a person who doesn't exercise at all. However, they're not necessarily polar opposites."

The article 'Why Sitting all day is slowly killing you' explains this effectively:
"In a 2007 report, University of Missouri scientists said that people with the highest levels of nonexercise activity (but little to no actual "exercise") burned significantly more calories a week than those who ran 35 miles a week but accumulated only a moderate amount of nonexercise activity.
For instance, a "standing" worker—say, a sales clerk at a Banana Republic store—burns about 1,500 calories while on the job; a person behind a desk might expend roughly 1,000 calories. That goes a long way in explaining why people gain 16 pounds, on average, within 8 months of starting sedentary office work, according to a study from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington."
Interesting, right?  Worse than weight gain, are the risk factors associated with prolonged sitting.

  • Higher risk of heart disease
  • Higher diabetes risk--less steps raises insulin levels
  • Back, spine, hip and shoulder pain
  • Posture changes due to the body adapting to the position in which it spends the most time
  • Weakening of muscles as the body adapts to the sitting position and uses less muscles to contract movement

So what can be done to lower these risks if your work involves desk work?  Add as much physical activity to your day as possible.  The little things add up.
  • Park at the back of the lot
  • Take the stairs to your office floor
  • Stand while on the phone
  • Walk to lunch
  • Stretch throughout the day 
Other ways to increase your "non-exercise" regimen:
  • Yard Work--the leaves are falling...
  • Take the kids to the park
  • Clean house
  • Playing catch with the dog or kids
What do you do to keep active during your day?

Best in health, naturally,

Dr. Marc

Want to read more on the risk of heart disease and chronic pains related to prolonged sitting?  Read more of  'Why sitting all day is slowly killing you' on MSNBC.

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Health Disclaimer

This information on this web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting Dr. Marc, your pediatrician or family doctor.

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