Stand Up For Your Health

Roxanne Palumbo spends eight hours a day doing something that may be surprisingly hazardous for her health. She sits. As a bookkeeper for a local car dealership, sitting at a desk is an occupational necessity for Palumbo. She’s not alone—as much as 86 percent of the American workforce sits for a living. In response to growing scientific research that suggests that sitting is detrimental to cardiovascular and overall health, some desk jockeys have changed their approach.

Palumbo traded in a standard desk chair for an exercise ball because she noticed she was feeling fatigued throughout the day. Sitting on a ball allowed her to stretch out, roll around and move more. Her energy levels improved almost immediately. “On a day I am feeling tired, I just bounce for up to a half hour on the ball and I feel better right away,” Palumbo said. Her employer bought similar balls for everyone in the department. The first change she noticed was an increased sense of being aware of her posture and core. Palumbo, like other exercise ball fans, believes the effort of holding herself up on the ball activates certain muscles, giving her a mild workout.

Dr. Frederick Dewey, a Westchester-based physician who studies disease risks and genetics, believes one of the most interesting recent findings is the effect prolonged sitting has even on people who are vigorous exercisers. “Even an hour of intense exercise can’t reverse the negative effects of sitting for the majority of the day,” Dewey said. In one study, scientists tested blood lipid and insulin levels in three different groups: A totally sedentary group, one that was seated all day but allowed to exercise and a third that walked for four hours and stood for two daily. Although the groups who formally exercised expended the same amount of energy, the one that stood for long periods had improved levels of lipids and insulin, two measurements with strong links to less risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Luckily for 9-to-5ers, taking advantage of the health perks of moving around isn’t difficult. “Recent studies suggest that even the small amount of physical activity associated with standing instead of sitting may ameliorate some of these adverse health effects,” Dewey said. A 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal showed that very small amounts of physical activity—like standing—is associated with reduced fat accumulation. At the office, moving more could involve a standing desk or one that provides a work surface above a treadmill.

Changing long-standing corporate culture may be a slow go (some employers require a doctor’s note before buying an alternative desk) but as more Long Island companies institute health-focused policies and incentives, opportunities for employees to utilize alternative setups could increase. It’s hard to know exactly how much benefit standing or walking throughout the day offers someone on an individual basis. “The jury is still out and can probably only be answered by a randomized trial of the interventions that have been proposed (standing desks, treadmills, balance balls) but in the meantime it stands to reason that standing more, moving more, sitting less and regularizing such breaks should be beneficial,” Dewey said.

Palumbo’s upgrade to a $25 exercise ball, only a small tweak to her setup, changes her hours of sitting from passive to active. Sitting on the ball forces her to think about what her body is doing during the day, which is almost always a step toward better health.

Tools of the Trade
Gear that boosts workday health can give a workspace a healthy makeover.

Flexible Desk
Some doctors advise a combination of sitting and standing at the office. The WorkFit-S Dual Monitor Sit-Stand Workstation moves up and down easily between the two positions. $369;

Get Moving
The TRI200 DT-5 treadmill desk is designed for all day use with a thicker walking belt. The desk syncs with the company’s app to chart activity. $2,500;

Rise Up
It’s easy to get wrapped up at the office and hunched over for too long. Set reminders on StandApp to take a break, do some stretching, get up and walk around or even do some brief exercise routines along with the app’s video workouts. Free; iOS and Android.

Read More
Rise Up: Taking a seat might be a health hazard

Jacqueline Sweet

Jacqueline Sweet

Jacqueline Sweet is a freelance journalist and writer who covers local news and writes features for local and regional publications. She has published work in national magazines like Salute magazine, Family (military) magazine, Triathlete magazine, regional publications like Long Island Pulse and Long Island Parenting, and reported local news for online outlets like and She has been covering health, wellness, fitness beauty, spa and travel for Long Island Pulse for several years.