Why You Need A Standing Desk Right Now

Last updated 31 Jan 2017 . 6 min read

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Since I work close to home , I’d roll out of bed, walk a few steps to my car and then proceed to sit all day. Often from 10am to 11pm at night only to roll right back into bed. And I was pretty happy about that --- till my studies brought me to articles on how sitting can damage your posture. 

There's a whole repository at Harvard Med here, but the gist is : Your chair is your enemy. 

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you. 

That, at least, is the conclusion of several recent studies. Indeed, if you consider only healthy people who exercise regularly, those who sit the most during the rest of the day have larger waists and worse profiles of blood pressure and blood sugar than those who sit less. Among people who sit in front of the television for more than three hours each day, those who exercise are as fat as those who don’t : sitting a lot appears to offset some of the benefits of jogging a lot.

So how much sitting is too much sitting?

Sitting by itself is not bad for you. Sitting incorrectly 8 hours a day 5 days a week and, going home and sitting for 5 more hours everyday is bad for you. 

Like everything in life, it's about moderation. If the only exercise you get is walking to and from your car to your house and standing in line at the Apna Bazaar, then yes, you're screwed. 

For many people, weight gain is a matter of slow creep — two kgs this year, three kgs next year. You can gain this much if, each day, you eat just 30 calories more than you burn. Thirty calories is hardly anything — it’s a couple of mouthfuls of banana, or a few potato chips. Thus, a little more time on your feet today and tomorrow can easily make the difference between remaining lean and getting fat.

What's so bad about sitting?

The problem isn't so much sitting as it is:

  • sitting for 8 hours solid

  • sitting in terrible posture with your spine bent so far forward it looks like you're trying to grow a snail's shell on your back

  • sitting in bad/uncomfortable chairs

  • not stretching your legs and getting up and moving about

The solution seems to have two parts.

The first is accepting that sitting is one of the most passive things you can do. You burn more energy by chewing gum or fidgeting than you do sitting still in a chair. Compared to sitting, standing in one place is hard work. To stand, you have to tense your leg muscles, and engage the muscles of your back and shoulders; while standing, you often shift from leg to leg. All of this burns energy. 

You may think you have no choice about how much you sit. But this isn’t true. Suppose you sleep for eight hours each day, and exercise for one. That still leaves 15 hours of activities. Even if you exercise, most of the energy you burn will be burnt during these 15 hours, so weight gain is often the cumulative effect of a series of small decisions:

Do you take the stairs or the elevator?

Do you e-mail your colleague down the hall, or get up and go and see her?

When you get home, do you potter about in the kitchen or sit in front of the television?

Do you walk to the corner store, or drive?

Do you get a standing desk, or simply move around more and sit straighter?

So what should I do about this desk job of mine?

So...you don't about turn and kowabunga to standing-all-day from sitting-all-day. The foot pain will destroy any peace of mind you get from burning more calories. Personally, some days I stand all day, some days, I move one monitor down to the normal-height desk all day. Depends on energy level and stuff. I certainly don't stand immobile like a flamingo, for hours. You stand most of the time, shifting from foot to foot, pace sometimes and sit sometimes. I definitely move more than I did sitting all the time. I would be very surprised if it weren't healthier than sitting for extended periods - because it has really made a difference in how energetic I feel at work. I'll usually sit on a bar stool like chair for a bit while reading some longer work stuff, just to break it up.

Just remember : Ultimately, simply standing up is no substitute for the moderate to vigorous exercise regime recommended for healthy adults.


< She Learns As She Goes > 20-something Mumbaikar | Psychologist | Writer | Imperfect | Feminist | Bibliophile | Adventurer | Tea Snob | Mum to two dogs I blog under this pen name. Thanks for dropping by. Maybe you’ll stay and get to know me (and even like the place!) even though I don’t have a face.

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