The health studies that conclude that people should sit less have always struck me as obvious. But a closer look at the accumulating research reveals something more disturbing: the health hazards of sitting for long stretches are significant even for active people.
Scientists have determined that after an hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol. Those are risk factors for developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“The science is still evolving, but we believe that sitting is harmful in itself,” says Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The good news is that when creative capitalism is working as it should, problems open the door to opportunity.
Steelcase, the maker of office furniture, offered its first models of height-adjustable desks in 2004. In the last five years, sales of its lines of adjustable desks and the treadmill desk have surged fivefold. Its models for stand-up work range from about $1,600 to more than $4,000 for a desk that includes an actual treadmill. Corporate customers include Apple and Google.
“It started out very small, but it’s not a niche market anymore,” says Allan Smith, vice president for product marketing at Steelcase.
In 2009, Daniel Sharkey was laid off from a tool-and-die factory. As a hobby, Mr. Sharkey had designed his own adjustable desk for standing.
Today, his company, Ergo Desktop, employs 16 people in Celina, Ohio. Sales of its several models, priced from $260 to $600, have quadrupled in the last year.
Steve Bordley of Scottsdale, Arizona, also designed a solution for himself that became a business. After a leg injury left him unable to run, he gained weight. So he fixed up a desktop that could be mounted on a treadmill. He walked on the treadmill while working on a computer. In six weeks, Mr. Bordley says, he lost 11 kilograms.
He quit the commercial real estate business and founded TrekDesk in 2007. Sales have grown tenfold from 2008, with several thousand of the desks, priced at $479, now sold annually.
“It’s gone from being treated as a laughingstock to a product that many people find genuinely interesting,” Mr. Bordley says.
Upright workstations were hailed recently by Wired magazine. In its October issue, it chose “Get a Standing Desk” as one of its “18 Data-Driven Ways to Be Happier, Healthier and Even a Little Smarter.”
Several staff members have become converts themselves in the last few months.
“And we’re all universally happy about it,” Thomas Goetz, Wired’s executive editor, wrote in an e-mail – sent from his new standing desk.
2012-12-18/聯合報/G9版/UNITEDDAILYNEWS 陳世欽譯 原文參見紐時週報七版下