We live in difficult times. Economic stagnation, changing societal standards, nuclear proliferation, increasing obesity and disease, political upheaval, Justin Bieber, racial strife, and the unexplainable popularity of the Kardashians, just to name a few. But these things are minor compared to the really big issue of the day; trying to keep abreast of the latest research about what is and what is not good for you. This is compounded exponentially because information moves so damn fast these days.
Two days ago, standing was healthy. The conventional wisdom of the week was easily summed up by four words; sitting bad, standing good. Many of us fell for this trend. I myself bought a new sit/stand adjustable desk, which I touted loudly here in my blog. I was an office trendsetter, as others here decided they wanted a sit/stand desk for themselves. Today, over half the desks in the office are of this type.
Standing was healthy. It improved circulation, and increased calorie burn. It was going to make us sleep better and lose weight. World peace would be conveyed across all the land if we would only just stand while we work, eat and sleep. Standing was in, and I was proud to be a part of it.
That was so last week.
A study announced yesterday changes all that. You better sit down for this. No, really, you better sit down. The new study found that standing five hours a day contributes to long-term back pain and musculoskeletal disorders. It turns out standing is bad for us.
Lead author of the study, Maria-Gabriela Garcia was quoted as reporting that standing on the job for two hours does not present a problem, but “a longer period is likely to have detrimental effects".
The researchers examined 14 men and 12 women. Half were between 18 and 30 years old, and half between 50 and 65. None of the participants had any history of any neurological or musculoskeletal disorder, and all were asked to refrain from strenuous activity the day before study participation.
They were then asked to perform light tasks while standing at a workbench for five hours, with five-minute rest breaks and one half-hour lunch break.
The participants were equally likely to experience significant fatigue at the end of the work day, no matter their age or gender. The researchers also noted clear signs of muscle fatigue, even a half hour after the standing period ended.
Duh. "Participants were equally likely to experience significant fatigue at the end of the work day". Wow, who could have seen that coming?
Imagine, fatigue at the end of the workday. I am sure none of us could even imagine something like that. And how does that fatigue equate to "long-term back pain and musculoskeletal disorders"? The study does not make that clear. Of course, I feel compelled to note that the researchers could follow me on a five hour plane ride where I do nothing but sit and achieve the same damn results.
All sarcasm aside, my own personal experience does back up this research to a degree. I stood consistently at my new desk for about two months after I got it, and did start experiencing some leg and ankle pain as a result. I've since shifted to a sit/stand mode, where I try to alternate my position, and avoid sitting for too long a period of time. Personally I believe that varying my stance and position for the long hours at my desk is the best thing for me.
Everything in moderation - which is an ironic statement when it exists here in my blog.
I suppose the frustration lies in the seemingly endless stream of studies and research that produces consistently inconsistent results. Eggs used to be good for you. Then bad. Now good again. Cholesterol is now not the horrid and frightening thing it once was, depending on whose research you choose to believe. Wine is good for you, unless it is bad for you. Fat was bad. Now fat good. It is an unending cacophony of studies and opinion, and with the rapid movement of information we just can no longer keep up.
Of one thing I can assure you; something risk managers can take to the bank, is that life itself is a major contributing factor to death. Of that we can be certain. All of the other influences and conditional issues may ebb and flow based on the belief of the day, but that sole fact is one on which we can firmly take a stand.
Just don't stand for too long. That apparently can harm you greatly.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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