Health Column: Now’s the time to take a stand at work

Those of us who work in offices tend to become one with our (sometimes cushy) executive chairs.

And while it doesn’t take a genius to understand that this relationship probably isn’t the best one for our health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that office workers spend about 65 to 75 percent of their workday sitting. This lack of motion can contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Dr. Richard Hall, a chiropractor in Southold, warns that sitting for long periods of time can also create tension in the musculoskeletal system, affecting the natural curves of the bones in the neck and the lower back, contributing to pain. 

“I tell people at least every half-hour to move, do a little stretch or a spinal twist,” he said. “You’ve got to move. People get so into their work that they forget.”

Paul Furbeck, director of rehabilitation for Peconic Bay Medical Center, explained that when sitting for extended periods of time, the body starts to shut down at the metabolic level, whereas getting up and standing throughout the day increases that metabolic rate, causing calories to burn and increasing blood flow.

According to the nonprofit organization, which is combating excessive sitting — at work, and at home — an increase in metabolic rate also stimulates focus, energy and productivity.

A September study released by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute of Australia explored the idea, finding that incorporating 30-minute stints of standing at work can help to relieve backaches and fatigue without harming productivity.

The workers used height-adjustable desks that support keyboards, allowing users to be productive while standing, switching between seated to standing positions, according to the study.

Mr. Furbeck said the standing desks are a staple around the Riverhead hospital, adding that he would “absolutely” recommend them, stating that patients should “modify the activity to a standing time they can tolerate.”

Though Dr. Hall said he has not yet worked with the adjustable desks, he said the notion “Sit less, live longer — to me that is common sense.”

He explained that movement can help keep the spine and pelvis healthy, and “the healthier the spine and pelvis, the easier it will be for you to sit or stand for longer periods of time.”

Dr. Hall recommends visiting one’s chiropractor if sitting for long periods of time results in discomfort.

Got a health question or column idea? Email Carrie Miller at [email protected] Follow her on twitter @carriemiller01