Beyond carpal tunnel: The risks of desk jobs

Research shows diabetes, depression, heart disease and some cancers are linked to sitting for long periods, which is common for those with desk jobs.

Office workers in Mound, Minnesota, may be aware of the importance of the ergonomic keyboard and mouse to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress disorders. However, these are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health problems researchers have linked to prolonged sitting.

High blood sugar

The Washington Post reports that poor posture does contribute to a variety of spinal issues, such as neck strain and muscle tissue damage. However, studies show that even at an ergonomic station, the pancreas is negatively affected. That organ produces insulin to help the body regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. When a person sits for hours at a time, muscles stop responding the way they should to insulin, and that prompts the pancreas to go into overdrive. As a result, the risk for diabetes rises.

Low mental function

Unused muscles take a toll in other areas of the body, as well. Fat is not burned as efficiently when muscle movement is restricted, and that leads to sluggish blood flow and less oxygen in the brain. Lower mental capacity is one side effect, and depression may follow, since the body does not produce the chemicals that improve mood and outlook.

Cancer

According to Time Magazine, an analysis of 43 studies indicates a clear connection between colon, lung and endometrial cancer, and remaining seated for hours during the day. Regular exercise did not lower the risks, which were 66 percent higher for those who are typically deskbound at work. Although the association is strong, researchers are not sure which factors involved in the stationary lifestyle are direct causes, and which are merely correlated.

Heart disease

Researchers have also verified a link between inactivity and high blood pressure, as well as heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, the body needs exercise for good blood circulation and cholesterol levels.

While it is important to get the recommended 30 minutes of activity at least five days each week, experts believe that standing for at least two out of eight work hours can make a significant health difference, according to Thomson Reuters Corp . People who spend half the day on their feet may see the most benefits. Some work environments are not conducive to standing, but even small interruptions of the longer periods spent seated may help.

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. An attorney may be able to help gather evidence when a health issue may be linked to working conditions. Anyone who suffers from a work-related injury or illness may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.