Office furniture evolving to offset unhealthy effects of sitting too much
One of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center's latest studies deserves a standing ovation from all of the deskbound 9-to-5ers in the working world. According to Pennington's recently-published research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, sitting time—as little as 4 hours at a time—is significantly associated with adverse levels of waist circumference, body mass index, and HDL cholesterol levels, to name a few of the health risks.
Amanda Staiano, a postdoctoral research fellow at Pennington and an author of the study, says sitting has become a hot topic as of late.
"It's really started blowing up in the literature in the past couple of decades. But this is one of the first papers to come out to show that not only are people sitting a lot, but people who sit a lot have worse health profiles," Staiano says.
The study notably found that even physically active participants, like runners, were not immune to the negative effects of sitting time, which prompts the question: What can desk-bound workers do to counteract inevitable blocks of sitting?
Staiano says that while there is no definitive answer, "some scientists will have people stand every 15 or 30 minutes and try to walk around the office, go pick up paper from the printer, or go visit a colleague to try to interrupt the sitting. Other offices are starting to use walking or standing desks. We don't know whether those are effective or appealing to employers, but it definitely seems to be becoming popular."
Local office furniture dealer Frost-Barber can attest to the demand for desks and chairs that allow sedentary workers more flexibility and mobility. In Baton Rouge, Frost-Barber is the only authorized carrier of Steelcase, an innovative furniture line whose newly unveiled Gesture chair adjusts to accommodate nine different research-based postures of sitting, which vary according to task and the technological tool being used (smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.).
"The ability for [sedentary workers] to change posture and do different things throughout the day is very small, so they get into a fixed position. With the adjustable desk and chair, they can still do the task, but without changing, they can push a button and go to a standing position, a stool position, or anywhere in between," says Frost-Barber sales representative Richie Shega.
Steelcase told Bloomberg in 2012 that sales of its stand-up desks were growing at four times the rate of its traditional desks. Although the firm would not disclose its clients' names, Frost-Barber has one customer in Baton Rouge that is providing all of its employees with height-adjustable desks and chairs, and another that's purchasing Steelcase Walkstations—workstations that are, essentially, also treadmills.
Still, Shega says sales of the new, flexible desks and chairs aren't exactly skyrocketing, partially due to the higher cost—an adjustable desk can cost upwards of 85% more than a conventional desk. For sales to catch up, Shega says, it's going to take businesses with leaders who "recognize that the return on the dollar investment that they make in every one of their employees is greater than the increased initial cost."
Staiano hopes her study will prompt that kind of change in thinking.
"I'd love for people to start re-evaluating how many hours they're spending sitting in the day and consider how to promote wellness at the work site. Things like offering classes during the day or covering gym memberships for employees, that sort of thing," she says. “And I think hopefully employers will find cost-savings for that … in the end, the employer will save money."
comments powered by Disqus
'225': 'Project Runway All Stars' winner Anthony Ryan talks B.R., his new line and overcoming cancer twice
St. George battle long in the making
Battle of Baton Rouge
GOP split on budget deal
Juking the ObamaCare Stats
Foreclosures drop to lowest level in 7 years
Stocks slide despite U.S. budget deal