When sit­ting at a work­sta­tion, be sure to get up and move around

Sherbrooke Record - - LOCAL SPORTS -

ASK THE DOC­TORS By Eve Glazier, M.D., and El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D.

Dear Doc­tor: I never gained the in­fa­mous “fresh­man 15” while I was in college. But now I’ve grad­u­ated and am be­hind a desk for nine hours a day for my new job. I’m not only putting on the pounds, I feel gen­er­ally lousy. Is this just ad­just­ing to work­ing life, or is sit­ting so much bad for you?

Dear Reader: Mak­ing the switch from the freeform life of a college stu­dent to the stric­tures and struc­ture of a full­time job can in­deed be a chal­lenge. It’s quite pos­si­ble that some of what you’re feel­ing is a re­sult of this shift in life­style. How­ever, your ques­tion ze­ros in on an im­por­tant el­e­ment of the mod­ern work­place, and one that nu­mer­ous stud­ies have iden­ti­fied as a gen­uine health haz­ard. That is, the fact that so many of us spend the ma­jor­ity of our days sit­ting. To quote more than a few of the head­lines we’ve seen on the topic — sit­ting may be the new smok­ing.

Our bod­ies are built for move­ment. Ev­ery one of our sys­tems — lungs, cir­cu­la­tory, lym­phatic, skele­tal and mus­cu­lar — ben­e­fits from reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity. Even im­proved mood and mem­ory have been linked to phys­i­cal fit­ness. Yet the de­fault of our mod­ern world has be­come in­ac­tiv­ity, whether it’s in cars, at desks, on couches or seated in front of screens. As more and more of us be­gan to spend our lives sit­ting down, re­searchers ex­am­ined the con­se­quences. The re­sults have been any­thing but re­as­sur­ing. Nu­mer­ous stud­ies have now linked those long hours of sit­ting to an in­creased risk of a num­ber of health threats, in­clud­ing di­a­betes, some can­cers and heart dis­ease.

An in­trigu­ing new study from the Univer­sity of Illi­nois-chicago sug­gests a new way for­ward for desk-based work­ers. Re­searchers eval­u­ated the mer­its of three dif­fer­ent types of work sta­tions. One was the desk-and-chair combo we’re all too fa­mil­iar with. One was the stand­ing desk, which has be­come a com­mon sight in many work­places. And one was a seated desk that had been out­fit­ted with a mo­bile foot rest. The de­vice, which goes by the brand name HOVR, is ba­si­cally a leg swing that al­lows the seated per­son to stay in mo­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, in­di­vid­u­als who used the mo­bile foot rest burned 17 per­cent more calo­ries than did those who sat still. In­ter­est­ingly, the foot rest group also used 7 per­cent more calo­ries than peo­ple at stand­ing desks. Ad­mit­tedly, it’s a mod­est step for­ward (sorry), but the point we took from the study is that even small in­ter­ven­tions can be ben­e­fi­cial.

Whether the op­tion of a foot swing is in your fu­ture, you can make some changes to how you spend your work day. Stand up and stretch ev­ery 10 or 15 min­utes. Take short walks around the of­fice. As much as pos­si­ble, add mo­tions that flex and stretch your legs, arms and trunk mus­cles. And it wouldn’t hurt to ask whether your work­place of­fers any al­ter­na­tives to the seated desk.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an in­ternist and as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of medicine at UCLA Health. El­iz­a­beth Ko, M.D., is an in­ternist and pri­mary care physi­cian at UCLA Health.

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