In today’s workplaces, virtually all professional, office and administrative workers work on personal computer terminals, laptops or similar technology, usually at a traditional desk. While we think of risky worksites as those involving heavy machinery, work at heights, exposure to chemicals, physical labor or similarly dangerous features, full-time sedentary work has its own inherent health risks.
As a new article in The Philadelphia Inquirer reminds us: Sitting is the new smoking.
The Inquirer discusses professional research at Drexel University that will be the subject of a 2018 law review article about the future of workers’ compensation claims for injury or disease from sedentary work. As the Inquirer points out, sitting for long periods is associated with increased risk of higher body fat, high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancers.
The Mayo Clinic explains further that prolonged sitting can increase a cluster of risks that when they occur together is called metabolic syndrome, involving blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol and extra fat around the waist. It also points out that the increased chance of heart disease and cancer actually increases the risk of death.
Mayo advises that sedentary employees stand or walk during work when possible to offset these health risks, explaining that muscle movement “seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body” that “stall” during sitting.
The Drexel researchers note that employers can decrease the risks from excessive sitting by giving frequent walking breaks, having meeting participants or people on phone calls stand, providing workstations with exercise components and “incorporat[ing] active design” into workplaces.
Anyone who suffers from disease or injury potentially associated with sedentary working conditions should speak with an attorney about the possibility that the impairment has arisen out of employment for purposes of a workers’ compensation claim.