Sitting is the new smoking

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Cathy Dobson

Most people don’t realize the damage they are doing when they sit for long periods, says ergonomist Brenda Mallat.

“We are a culture that sits way too much. That’s not what we’re designed to do,” she says.

Prolonged sitting can lead to increased risk for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, even death. That’s why sitting has become the new smoking, she said.

While Mallat has been advocating less sitting and more activity for years, recent studies in the U.S., Europe and Australia have confirmed what ergonomists have long known:  It’s important to take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. Not only will the risk of serious health issues be reduced, your back will thank you.

“Sitting is static and forces going through your back are much higher,” Mallat said. “Also, if you’re not moving, you’re not getting a lot of blood flow or a lot of oxygen to the tissue.”

Employers should be concerned because less oxygen to the brain means less productivity.

A short break every half hour will make a difference, said Mallat.

“Unfortunately, we develop bad habits so you have to consciously make a change.”

She recommends standing when on the phone or the Internet. Some offices provide wireless headsets to walk around while on the phone. Desks that mechanically move up and down to accommodate sitting or standing are becoming more popular.

“Some companies have even introduced standing meetings,” said Mallat.

She and fellow ergonomist Nick Niforos from the local Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) are facilitating a free lunch-and-learn to encourage less sitting. Registration is required before Nov. 13.

WHAT: Taking a Stand Against Sitting, a free lunch-and-learn

WHEN:  Tuesday, Nov. 17 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

WHERE: OHCOW office, 171 Kendall St. in Point Edward

OTHER: Space is limited. Call Ann Tanner at 519-337-4627 ext. 2322.