Scientific concept: Dormant butt syndrome

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active-vs-sedentary-gluteHave you heard about something the media is calling “dormant butt syndrome”? (AKA “gluteal amnesia” or “pancake tush” or “secretarial spread.”) These funny names refer to a serious condition characterized by tight hip flexors and weak gluteal muscles, as a result of sitting for prolonged periods.

A recent study published by Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University suggests dormant butt syndrome may be the surprising cause of pain in the knee, back and hip. How so? When those major muscles are compromised, others must work harder to compensate, which may lead to discomfort or injury in the middle and lower body.

As a remedy, experts recommend unseated activity (such as working at a standing desk), stretches, lunges and other exercises to strengthen glutes.

Find out more about conditions connected to “sitting disease” in the scientific research section of this website.

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Walking meetings vs. standing desks: Why do I have to choose? Think like a millennial.

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The uncompromising approach of the new generation of workers both shocks and inspires me. They dare to suggest solutions that sound impossible to my jaded ear. And they don’t always easily tolerate a choice between this or that. Maybe we can learn something from their openness to breaking the rules so to speak.

A case in point: recent articles like the one by Jill Margo, a baby-boomer like me, in the Financial Review, “Forget standing desks, take a ‘walking meeting’ instead.” She (and others) report that walking meetings are feasible for many workers, and offers some good advice on how to engage in them. But why does she suggest walking meetings as an alternative to standing desks?

The new generation of workers will be sure asking for this and that. And a feasible response to them would be, “Of course we can – in fact, we should!” We, as workers, will benefit from both.

While both walking meetings and standing desks serve the cause for worksite wellness, they do not function physiologically in the same way. Placing them in opposition to each other reflects a basic misunderstanding of the importance of the different types of movement in the workplace. This could mislead readers into thinking walking meetings and standing desks are more similar than they really are, and ultimately to some ill-informed decisions around their workplace activity.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing the article’s promotion of walking meetings. I only want to emphasize that adjustable sit-stand desks are designed to reduce the periods of uninterrupted sitting so prevalent in office environments. Even if a person engaged in four 30-minute walking meetings every day, they would still be at risk of “sitting disease” if they also sat for more than 30 minutes at a time. This is true because physical activity like walking does not compensate for time spent being sedentary.

There is quite a bit of research being done to establish a dose-response relationship between movement and sedentary time. Some experts even suggest that too much physical activity during the work day can cause longer uninterrupted bouts of sitting later as a compensation. The balance between too much sitting and too much exercise is still to be determined.

In the meantime, moderation is recommended.

You don’t have to be a millennial to want both worlds. Maybe I learned it from my millennial children, or maybe I’ve just come to experience the benefits of both in my own work day. You could easily interchange walking meetings with yoga at work, or taking a run at lunch. The argument remains the same. Both are better for you. Sit-Stand desks have a place in your work world, whether you work in a corporate center or have converted your back bedroom for a home office.

Let’s all start thinking like the next generation of workers. They don’t accept unreasonable choices sitting down, and neither do I.

carrie s_a-hr– Carrie Schmitz, Sr. Manager of Ergonomic & Wellness Research at Ergotron (@giveafig)

 

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Switch it up, with a regular sit-stand routine

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Are you a deskbound worker? Chances are that for some of you, your health may be compromised and your fitness de-conditioned due to prolonged sedentary time. Most ergonomics and human factors experts agree that the human body is designed to move and cycle through a balance of postures.

In other words? You need to periodically sit down, stand up and move around throughout the day. How much may depend on your life and workstyle.

Research suggests that sitting for extended periods slows your metabolism and raises your risk for obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and early death. But as any retail worker or waiter can tell you, being on your feet all day can be hard on your circulatory system, legs, feet and back too. The idea is balance. By switching from one posture to another frequently, you automatically mitigate the risks associated with either one on its own.

So how should you begin to switch it up?

This is where the sit-stand switch comes into play. As a benchmark, we recommend changing your position every 30 minutes.

Start slowly. No need to overdo it and suffer additional physical stress and strain. Stand for short periods – 5 minutes per hour, then 10 minutes, and so on until you work up to longer intervals throughout the workday.

Need a little more guidance? Here are some examples of an hourly sit-stand routine, which could be repeated during your workday:

  • Do 30 minutes of sitting while computing, then 30 minutes of standing in a meeting or reviewing mail
  • Do 20 minutes of sitting working on a report, and then 10 minutes of standing reading email and 30 minutes of doing some coding or editing
  • Do 30 minutes of sitting while writing an article, then 20 minutes of standing on the phone and 10 minutes of stretching or filing.

There are endless formulas for creating a mix of sitting and standing postures that accommodate many environments, occupations and workflows. Use these as guidelines only, meant to simply encourage you to sit less and stand more. It is worth noting that even small changes can make a big improvement in your biochemical and biomechanical picture.

There may be a few other areas that you need to switch.

Whether sitting or standing, good posture and proper body mechanics are necessary. While sitting, avoid slumping forward, craning your neck out or dropping it down. While standing, keep the knee joint relaxed, not locked. Wear supportive shoes and cushion feet with a mat. Fidgeting is good, and if possible, make bigger movements such as light stretches at your desk.

To prevent falling back into sedentary bad habits, you might want to consider giving yourself regular reminders to change posture. For instance:

  • Set a digital alarm or kitchen timer to ring at 20-30 minute intervals.
  • Use a Fitbit or other wearable device that tracks activities and reminds wearers to move.
  • Try an app such as SitStandCOACH or Rise & Recharge, that messages you to stand or to sit at intervals you’ve set.
  • Consider creating or buying a sit-stand desk that allows you to easily switch between sitting and standing without interfering with work activity and productivity.

If you can train yourself to cycle through the sit-stand switch, you will gain the benefits of both postures. Plus, you’ll minimize the risks of metabolic, mental, and musculoskeletal strain. That’s a double-win, for your mind and body.

 

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Calling all sit-stand champions! New resources for you

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We’ve added a new Resources Center on Juststand.org with even more information to equip employees asking for movement-friendly workstations — and to educate employers on the many organizational benefits of creating a culture of movement. Visit Juststand.org/toolkit to learn more.

Our downloadable WorkFit Champion Toolkit includes:

*  “Ask Your Boss” templates for employees to download and customize to their situation and management structure with annotated research citations help support the request.

*  Checklist and talking points for wellness champions, plus our e-books, white papers, Infographics and tip sheet.

The Resources Center also links to other information throughout JustStand.org, making it a great starting point for people when looking to gather information to share with their stakeholders.

 

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On-demand Webinar! Build a business case for sit-stand

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ON-DEMAND WEBINAR NOW AVAILABLE

With so many organizations looking for ways to reduce employee absenteeism and presenteeism, improve productivity, and lower healthcare costs, this complimentary 30-minute on-demand webinar followed by Q&A, helps HR and wellness professionals learn why standing at work is gaining popularity and how to make a business case for sit-stand solutions. Attendees who work in the fields of health, safety, wellness or ergonomics will benefit most from this webinar.

This webinar will help you address such questions as:

* Why is standing at work such a focus all of a sudden?

* What research has been done on sit-stand interventions?

* How can I build a business case for investing in sit-stand?

Ergotron_BCFSS_CTA

 

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Trends emerged from our second JustStand® Index

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Over the past few weeks, we have explored the findings from our second JustStandIndex, highlighting employees’ attitudes towards prolonged sitting. As research continues to prove that sedentary behavior is a threat to our overall health, this issue must be considered each and every day as we strive to #MoveMore.

To conclude, we are rounding up the five key trends that emerged:

#1: Our analysis found that restlessness from sitting is more disruptive to employees than browsing social media. Of the 1,000 working adults who were surveyed, 61 percent of respondents indicated they were more apt to get up and move around than check social media (16%) when feeling restless. When you are feeling restless at your desk, what are you most apt to do?

#2: The bottom line is that employees aren’t happy about sitting all day. Close to 70 percent say they have to sit all day for their jobs – approximately 5.8 hours – and 61 percent strongly dislike or even hate it. Our research underscores the desire among employees for a nontraditional workplace.

#3: There seems to be a false sense of fitness among employees. While 55 percent believe wearables and mobile apps best equip them to improve overall health, most of devices don’t differentiate between when employees sit and stand during the day.

#4: Organizations of all sizes are investing in health and wellness initiatives, however only 23 percent of employees are aware of their company’s wellness program. The Index highlights the continued expansion of wellness programs in modern organizations, and how combating sedentary workstyles is expected to become a mainstream workplace benefit.

#5: Since conducting the first JustStand Index in 2013, awareness of sitting disease has doubled, going from 7 to 15 percent, but is still remains relatively low considering the potential impacts sedentary lifestyles have on health.

It is evident that organizations may be missing an obvious point of employee dissatisfaction: sedentary work environments. In the coming weeks, months and years it is our hope that continued awareness of the dangers of sedentary lifestyles will reach a tipping point, and widespread understanding will influence healthy movement in the corporate workplace.

To download the full e-book visit: www.juststand.org/JSindex

 

 

 

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Top 10 tips for boosting your workplace wellness

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The first annual Higher Health Symposium at Northwestern Health Sciences University, in Bloomington, MN, was a fast-paced event that shed light on new research on workplace wellness. Hundreds of attendees and two Twin Cities television stations turned out to learn about the innovative solutions to health challenges in the workplace.

Carrie Schmitz, Marketing Research Manager at Ergotron, and Betsey Banker, Ergotron Vertical Market Manager for Wellness, were among the panel of industry experts. Here are the top 10 takeaways from their popular presentation, Worksite Wellness: Embracing a culture of movement for greater health and productivity:

  1. We’ve known for a long time that physical activity promotes wellness, but it’s in the last 20 years or so that the research has really started to accumulate about physical inactivity, in part because of the increase in sedentary jobs.
     
  2. In a recent survey of 1,000 knowledge workers, people reported spending only three hours standing or being active during the day, which is already not much, but might even be an overstatement.
     
  3. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality and is responsible for nearly one in 10 deaths in the U.S. alone.
     
  4. For the first time in history, our own lifestyle choices turn out to be more deadly than infectious diseases. What we eat and how much we move are the crucial factors that will determine both the quality and length of our lives.
     
  5. For employers, the cost associated with physically inactive employees is 15.3% more than those who are physically active.
     
  6. High-intensity physical activity doesn’t keep these effects from occurring. As one study concluded, “an hour of daily physical exercise cannot compensate the negative effects of inactivity on insulin level and plasma lipids if the rest of the day is spent sitting.”
     
  7. Sitting 6+ hours at work increases risks of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
     
  8. There are costs associated with all of these things. Stress – something many of us are familiar with – is estimated to cost $200-$300 billion a year in lost productivity.
     
  9. Low intensity, “non-exercise” activities like standing and walking are much more important than we realized. In fact, low-level activities play a crucial metabolic role and account for more of our daily energy expenditure than moderate- to high-intensity activity like running. We’re just scratching the surface of this incredibly important public health issue.
     
  10. Hundreds of researchers are currently actively collecting data that will inform recommendations on how often we need to move, how long we need to engage in that movement, and at what intensity. Here are just a few results from the research on the science of sedentary behavior.
     

Take a look at pdf’s of slides from this presentation, posted on the Higher Health Symposium website.

 

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Increasing awareness of sedentary behavior risks

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In 2013, the first JustStand® Index was released to better understand how sedentary the typical American is each day and to measure the overall awareness of sitting disease and its accompanying risks. In 2016, we revisited the exercise in order to see what changes had taken place over time.

Since the first Index, there has arguably been an increased understanding of the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyles. Several news articles and subsequent expert commentary have been published that highlight the ill effects of too much sitting. It follows then that the latest Index found overall awareness of what is known as “sitting disease” has more than doubled, from 7 percent in 2013 to 15 percent in 2016. In addition, more people believe that prolonged sitting could lead to an early death (from 74 percent to 86 percent).

Interestingly enough, one of the most telling data points is the one that had almost no significant statistical change. When respondents were asked if they personally believe they are at risk for sitting disease, less than half of respondents said yes (48 percent), compared to 47 percent in 2013. While awareness around sitting disease and its effects has risen, people seem to still be unaware that it needs to be addressed now or that they could personally be at risk.

Just-Stand-Index_Changes-Over-Time_640Why is sitting disease such an important issue for employers to consider? Since many employees spend a majority of their time seated at their desks, the workplace is where there is the biggest room for change. Employers should empower their employees to be more active at work and help increase their overall wellness – check out what one expert has to say:

Sedentary behavior is driving up healthcare costs and affecting performance and productivity. One almost shockingly simple solution is to get people moving. There’s so much that an executive or HR professional can’t control when it comes to what impacts employee wellness and productivity – like what people are eating or how much they’re sleeping – so it’s important that they take advantage of their influence in the office and workstation environment. Whether it’s standing meetings, walking paths or sit-stand workstations, employers can embrace movement in a way that has a positive impact on employee health and productivity every day.” – Betsey Banker, CWWPM, CWWS, wellness manager, Ergotron.

Providing a means for increased movement is one ways the employers can help increase their employees overall health.

How you can find ways to MOVE MORE:

As research continues to prove that sedentary behavior is a threat to our overall health, it’s critical to begin taking steps to increase activity throughout the day, beyond the general advice of exercising more. Utilizing tools to create simple lifestyle changes, such as a standing desk at work or a wall mount in a home office are easy ways to incorporate more movement into your day – thus reducing the effects of sitting all day.

To download the full e-book visit: www.juststand.org/JSindex

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Scientific concept: good vs. bad cholesterol

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Many of us are aware that the two basic kinds of cholesterol LDL and HDL can be thought of as the “good” and “bad” type, but do you know which is which?

Maybe this analogy will help you to remember:

LDL are Low density lipids – think of them as dust in a vacuum cleaner hose. LDL are light, fluffy particles that cling to and get stuck in the arteries which results in damage and inflammation that may lead to cardiovascular disease.

In contrast, HDL are high density lipids – think of them as forming a stiff brush. Since HDL particles are more dense than LDL particles, they dislodge the LDL  when moving through the arteries, just like a brush can clear out the dust from a dirty vacuum cleaner hose.

The optimum number for LDL is less than 100mg/dL and for HDL, it’s 60 mg/dL and higher, according to the National Institutes of Health.

To learn more about movement and heart health, check out research on the science of sitting and standing.

 

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Q&A: Does research prove value of sit-stand desks?

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Q-A_purpleQ: What is your reaction to reports that there isnt good evidence supporting the use of sit-stand desks to reduce sitting time in the workplace? Melissa G., Project Manager

A: Hi Melissa. I think you may be referring to media buzz concerning the recently published  Cochrane review of 20 sit-stand studies. While the authors of this review no doubt meant to supply an objective analysis by which to guide readers, the unfortunate truth is that it has left some employers and workers feeling confused and alarmed by casting doubt on the health benefits of sit-stand interventions in general.

Several pilot investigations have been published indicating that sit-stand desks are both effective and feasible at reducing sitting time (research.juststand.org). And yet the scientific evidence reviewed in this meta-analysis was deemed “uncertain.”

“Based on what we know at the moment, the health benefits of standing at work are not very clear,” says  Jos Verbeek, study author and health researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. Indeed, one might suspect that sit-stand desks were meant to substitute the standing posture for sitting, but that is not the case. If one thing has become more obvious in our own research at Ergotron, it is that no single posture should be recommended as the one and only correct posture.

While a strict dose/response ratio is still up to debate, we feel that a postural rotation of 30 minute intervals is both safe and effective. In this case, the goal is not to prove that standing at work is more beneficial than sitting, but that any static posture is to be avoided.

Further, the review concludes that evidence for the health benefits of standing desks is limited, mainly because only a few large,  ongoing studies have been conducted, and more rigorous study is needed. While I support the call for further high-quality research (after all who wouldn’t?), I would hasten to point out that the data already collected is not wholly without value. In fact, it demonstrates  a responsible approach on the part of investigators who use small-scale pilot studies to pave the way for larger, long-term projects.

High caliber longitudinal studies require planning time, dependable funding source(s), and still more time for proper analysis – and all that before publication. All things considered, sedentary behavior research is in its early days as compared to similar research on say, interventions to eradicate tobacco use. Then too, the reviewers in question seem to have underestimated the impact that reductions in sitting time can have on an individual’s health. Consider the results of one study which show that the likelihood of dying from heart disease rises 14% for every hour spent sitting.  According to lead researcher, Dr. Katherine Kulinski, “reducing daily sitting time by even 1 or 2 hours could have a significant and positive impact on future cardiovascular health, and this really should be investigated in future studies,” said

Ergotron continues to support global researchers as they study the effects of sedentary behavior on metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular health, Type II diabetes prevention and so on. It is an exciting time in this research and there is so much more to be learned.

As companies begin to embrace a culture of movement, these reductions, coupled with other activities, like standing or walking meetings, begin to paint a brighter outlook for all.

To avoid established research being taken out of context, it is good to remember the goals of these studies, which often are centered on both reducing sedentary time and studying cumulative impact on health through standing desk use.

For details, read the full review  on the Cochrane Library or listen to a short podcast about updates since publication, or visit our research library on the site (research.juststand.org) for a broader view.

With any behavioral change, modest increases in standing are to be applauded. Employees may not need to stand for hours over the course of the day to enjoy benefits. For instance, a recent study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M  showed that an average decrease of 1.5 hours in workplace sedentariness correlated to impressive gains in employee performance and business results.

With a sit-stand desk, standing and staying active doesn’t have to hamper productivity. Employees can fidget, shift, take a few steps, stretch  –  without getting distracted from work or having to go outside the office to work out.

Keep moving!

carrie s_a-hrCarrie Schmitz, Ergotron Senior Manager,
Human Factors and Ergonomics Research,
@giveafig

 

 

 

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