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EHS OutLoud Blog

When All the Options are Bad for You

sitting.jpgThere’s an old cheer that goes like this: Lean to the left, lean to the right. Stand up! Sit down! Fight! Fight! Fight! A couple of studies from universities in Sydney, Australia, are ready to duke it out over whether prolonged standing or sitting is worse for us.

The first study, from Charles Sturt University in Sydney, claims that prolonged standing can cause serious health problems, even fatal blood clots. Jenny Pynt, an ergonomics researcher, said that prolonged standing in one place can cause “low back pain and circulation problems in the legs, leading to blood clots in the lungs.”

This is bad news for workers who stand in one place or move around very little during an 8-hour shift.

Another study, this one from the University of Sydney, found that adults who sit 11 or more hours per day have a 40 percent increased risk of dying in the next 3 years, compared with those who sat for fewer than 4 hours a day.

Study lead author Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health, noted, “That morning walk or trip to the gym is still necessary, but it's also important to avoid prolonged sitting. Our results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, at work and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more."

So, which is better for us: Standing or sitting? Those are the only two options available to most of us at work.

But maybe it’s not the actual standing or sitting that’s bad, but the fact that most of us just don’t move enough. Even people who exercise every day cannot reverse the effect of standing or sitting for prolonged periods. The trick, say most researchers, is to move around as much as possible and to be aware when we are not changing our positions enough.

So, I’ve made a vow to stand up and take a short walk every hour. Maybe it’s just to the water fountain or a trip around the floor, but I’m going to move a little bit. Hopefully, it will become a habit, at least until yet another researcher in Sydney determines that moving is the worst option of all…

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