Seated or upright: It’s a standoff



Don’t say I never heed the warnings about my imminent doom, physical, spiritual, moral or otherwise.

Why, just the other day, having begun to peruse a lengthy report on the dangers of sitting around all day, I did something about my habit of rump perching. I raised my legs to roughly waist height, crossed my ankles, placed my feet on the desk, leaned back in my chair, and continued to read.

This from Dr. James Levine of The Mayo Clinic:

“Researchers have linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including obesity and metabolic syndrome a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. Too much sitting also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

Indeed, the good doctor reports, “One recent study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or other screen-based entertainment with those who logged more than four hours a day of recreational screen time. Those with greater screen time had: A nearly 50 per cent increased risk of death from any cause; (and) about a 125 per cent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease, such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack.”

Well, then, the solution seemed obvious: Install a standing desk. These days, they’re everywhere. A simple google search pulled up Workrite’s Sierra HX-Electric Height Adjustable Stand Up Desk for a princely $1,479.00. There’s also National Business Furniture’s Standing Height Workstation for a more cost-effective $659. 

I had a better idea. I jumped to my feet and into the car. At my local Kent Building Supplies store, I procured a three-foot-square sheet of plywood (good one side), four 12-inch long pieces of 2×2-inch pine, 16 l-brackets, and a bunch of screws.

Once home, I assembled my custom-designed platform – expansive enough to accommodate my IMac, keyboard and mouse, with room to spare – and placed it atop the banquet table that subs for my desk. It was perfect. And cheap ($49.95).

Feeling enormously pleased with myself, I commenced to work from the standing position like some clerk in a Dickensian counting house. 

Naturally, my reverie was short-lived.

“Sitting at your desk all day is killing you whether or not you exercise, which is why so many people are building standing desks,” confirmed Adam Pash, writing in Lifehacker in 2011 (though I only came across his report last week). “But the ergonomics team at Cornell University points out that standing also has its problems.”

Quoting from the crew at Cornell, he wrote, “It (standing) dramatically increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis (ninefold) because of the additional load on the circulatory system, and it also increases the risks of varicose veins, so standing all day is unhealthy. The performance of many fine motor skills also is less good when people stand rather than sit.”

Intrigued (and annoyed), I commenced to dig a little deeper and, in due course, uncovered, in the provocatively named “Hazards Magazine”, an August 2005 piece that dropped such pearls of wisdom:

“Health statistics suggest hundreds of thousands of people in the UK could be suffering health problems related to prolonged standing. Almost 200,000 report lower limb symptoms caused or made worse by the job. . .Lower limb disorders cause over two million days sick leave a year. . .Chronic heart and circulatory disorders are linked to prolonged standing at work. . .Prolonged time in an upright posture at work may cause hypertension comparable to 20 years of aging.”

What’s more, the story contends, “There has never been a Health and Safety Executive prosecution for a breach of the current health and safety regulation covering provision of seating at work. Legal protection for many workers was better in 1917.”

As you might imagine, none of this sits well with me at all. In fact, you might say, I simply won’t stand for it.

Everywhere we go, the hazards to our health are multiplying. Now, they’re becoming maddeningly conflicting. 

Eggs or no eggs. Gluten or gluten-free. Rice milk or soy.

I think I’ll have a lie-down, as the jury’s still out the health effects of the prone position.


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