Bernardino Ramazzini in 1700 wrote a seminal work called De Morbis Artificum Diatriba [Diseases of Workers]. He writes of office life:
The maladies that afflict the clerks . . . arise from three causes: First, constant sitting, secondly the incessant movement of the hand and always in the same direction, thirdly the strain on the mind from the effort not to disfigure the books by errors or cause loss to their employers when they add, subtract, or do other sums in arithmetic. . . . Incessant driving of the pen over paper causes intense fatigue of the hand and the whole arm because of the continuous and almost tonic strain on the muscles and tendons, which in course of time results in failure of power in the right hand. . . .
Those who sit at their work and are therefore called “chair-workers,” such as cobblers and tailors . . . become bent, hump-backed, and hold their heads down like people looking for something on the ground; this is the effect of their sedentary life and the bent posture of the body as they sit and apply themselves all day to their tasks in the shops where they sew. .. . Since to do their work they are forced to stoop, the outermost vertebral ligaments are kept pulled apart and contract a callosity, so that it becomes impossible for them to return to the natural position. . . . These workers, then, suffer from general ill-health . . . caused by their sedentary life. . . . But it is not so true of many other sedentary workers, potters and weav-ers, for example, who exercise the arms and feet and in fact the whole body; this keeps them in better health because the impurities in the blood are more easily dispersed by such movements. All sedentary workers suffer from lumbago. . . . They should be advised to take physical exercise, at any rate on holidays. Let them make the best use they can of some one day, and so to some extent counteract the harm done by many days of sedentary life. . . .