Author: Indiana Lee
Over 80% of all jobs in the United States are sedentary. Most people spend their days sitting at a desk and staring at a computer, only getting up to head to the copy machine or grab lunch with a coworker.
Believe it or not, humans weren’t made to spend their days sitting in a chair – no matter how ergonomic it is. Our ancestors spent the majority of their time hunting, gathering, and naturally leading more active lifestyles.
While today’s creature comforts have made it easy to be more sedentary, we could learn a thing or two from the past, and what our bodies are biologically designed to do.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at why modern jobs aren’t biologically suited for people. The more you understand the importance of moving your body and staying active, the easier it will be to implement changes at work.
The Science of Sitting
Some have suggested that we’re currently experiencing a fourth Industrial Revolution. However, this stage in modern history is different from the revolutions we’ve experienced in the past. It’s filled with cyber-physical systems and endless technology, including:
- Mobile connection;
- 3D printing;
- Energy storage;
- Quantum computing.
Technology has done some incredible things over the years, and it continues to advance our lives in so many ways. However, as more tech jobs emerge, so does the need for people to sit for long hours, looking at a computer screen or manning the helm of certain devices. Even careers that once required some physical activity, like factory work, are being taken over by technology and automation, leaving those people to seek out different jobs that are likely more sedentary.
The problem? Humans aren’t made to sit for long periods of time. Just because we’ve seen such advancements in technology and other areas doesn’t mean our basic biology has changed. Sitting for extended periods can actually cause harm to your mental and physical health. Some of the risks of sitting at a desk all day include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Increased risk of heart disease
Some of the mental health issues associated with a sedentary lifestyle include an increased risk of depression and anxiety. You’re also more likely to be fatigued, and experience a lack of motivation.
The Risk of Remote Work
Nowadays, remote work is more popular than ever. It’s been on the rise for a few years, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to experience a major surge. It’s a trend that’s likely to continue thanks to advancements in technology.
There are plenty of benefits to working from home. It allows for flexibility, a healthy work-life balance, and less stress. However, there are some health risks associated with working from home that might surprise you. Some of the issues might seem minuscule, like eye strain and boredom. However, working from home can make you less likely to exercise or get any kind of real physical activity.
It can also cause isolation and loneliness, which have both been linked to mental health issues like depression. People are meant to be social creatures. Like almost every other animal, social behavior is important. Spending all of your time alone at home robs you of that kind of interaction, potentially leading to long-term mental and physical health consequences.
Finally, some remote workers feel like they don’t have their privacy or “freedom”. Employers can use time-tracking software, check digital data, or even expect more out of remote workers around the clock since they’re home. That can lead to constant stress and endless pressure that we’re not meant to deal with.
On the flip side, about 74% of Americans commute to work each day, and the average commute time is 55 minutes. For many people, the morning and afternoon commutes are just a normal part of life.
However, working long hours away from home can take a toll on your well-being. Research has shown that spending hours each day working away from home can put you at greater risk of things like:
- Sleep deprivation
- Social isolation
If you’re commuting an hour or less each day, the best things you can do to combat these issues are to prioritize sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and practice self-care as much as possible – especially when it comes to maintaining a social life.
Labor-intensive Work Concerns
Other jobs, like truck driving, construction work, or even commercial fishing can take you away from home for weeks (or months) at a time. These professions are often associated with hard labor and isolation — both of which may negatively affect mental and physical health. While you might think that’s more in line with what our ancestors had to deal with, many laborious jobs were done in groups to cut down on the workload, and a sense of community was always prioritized.
There’s no question that we’ve made some incredible advancements over the years. However, it’s important to find a healthy balance when it comes to how we utilize those advancements. People are biologically suited for so many modern jobs, and while we might not be able to make sweeping changes to these careers as a society, each person can do their part to prioritize their health and well-being, in and out of their careers.
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