Sitting on chairs can have a deteriorating impact on our health and can prove to be harmful in the long run. This has been proved by Dr. James Levine in his book titled as, “Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It”. Dr. Levine is the professor of medicine at the U.S.-based Mayo Clinic. He has done research on the topic and has written his findings in this book. He has even characterized chairs as human killers. He is of the view that chairs are more detrimental as compared to some of the known fatal illnesses or bad habits like HIV and smoking. The basis of Dr. Levine’s findings is the research on “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” also known as NEAT. It refers to the total quantity of energy used by a person while doing everything apart from sleeping, eating and exercise. The activities of NEAT encompasses cleaning your home, cooking, travelling, doing manual work, digging snow, mowing the lawn, etc. In simple terms, if the work requires more energy and movement, more NEAT calories are burnt. The study suggest that decreased NEAT can have serious repercussions including heart attack, obesity, weight gain, cancer, diabetes etc. Sitting on chair and doing the work prove insufficient activity to burn calories thus contributing to low NEAT.
Active workplaces can be helpful in safeguarding people against these harmful impacts and facilitate them in staying healthy. Workplace setting with high desks where people stand and work can be a viable option. This will keep the workforce active, alert and more prolific. Same is true for children. If they are not provided with playgrounds or are not involved in healthy activities, their physical and mental health will suffer. Various studies reveal that children in active classrooms are found to be more competent and score better grades as compared to those who spend most of the time sitting inside the classrooms.
Even though the concept of active workplaces and classrooms is beneficial and health friendly, it has faced a lot of criticism. One of the most logical argument is that standing for extended hours can cause fatigue, back ache, sore legs, swelling in legs and feet etc. This has been proved by a study conducted by Toronto Workers Health & Safety Centre. Other experiments show that standing for a longer time results in stress, exhaustion, poor concentration, inefficiency and body weakness.
It can be deduced that active workplaces with standing desks might not be a feasible option but so does sitting on chairs the entire day. Both extremes can affect the human body in a negative way. A more balanced approach needs to be adopted. It would be a lot better if people adopt a mix of both approaches and make use of both standing and sitting postures while working. Moreover, studies at UT Southwestern Medical Center suggest that daily exercise can be helpful and can offset the consequences of sitting on a chair for extended time.
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