Life Health

Get up, stand up while you work

By Dai Manuel

GETTY IMAGES

GETTY IMAGES

The standing desk seemed to roll in just like any other office fad. You watched as people gave up their rolling chairs and cozy cubicles for high, desktop work stations, and you suppressed a secret smile.

 

You waited for the fad to pass, but it didn’t. You finally caved and, when you did, you wondered why you had waited so long.

Most people admit that it was a bit of an adjustment at first, but that they would never go back now. Since switching to the standing desk, they have seen changes in their productivity, energy, and alertness. There’s clearly a standing desk revolution on our hands. Beyond the benefits to your focus and performance at work, there are also long-term health benefits.

Benefit 1 is it combats the obesity epidemic. Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, has found many health reasons for standing. He experimented with sensors attached to office workers. They were asked to eat the same amount of calories and they were all sitting desk workers. The workers who got up and moved around more during the day — even simple tasks like walking to offices instead of emailing — didn’t gain weight. They were up and moving for almost 2.5 hours more than the colleagues that did gain weight. This is a clear indication as to how standing and moving can impact weight gain.

The key is in moderate movement throughout the day. A standing desk is perfect for this, as it actually encourages movement all day.

Benefit 2 is the calorie burn. When you stand, you don’t stand absolutely still. You rock, you move your feet, and you are constantly shifting your weight. You are also more likely to do more walking around the office since you are already up.

Benefit 3 is improved posture and flexibility. Standing up helps strengthen your glutes and keeps your hips flexible. It is harder to slouch when standing than when you sit down, so there is less pressure on your back and hips.

Benefit 4 is the lessening in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A 2013 study arrived at the conclusion “that for people who are already at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the amount of time spent sitting could be a more important risk factor than the amount of time spent vigorously exercising.” Therefore, reducing time spent sitting down could prevent diabetes even more than increasing exercise.

Benefit 5 is a possibility of cancer reduction. Although this is still in the study and research phase, early evidence points to those who are sedentary and sit a lot as having a higher C-reactive protein, which causes cancer. Those who are active have lower amounts of this protein.

And, lastly, as if the first five weren’t enough, there is cardiovascular improvement. Since what seems like forever, doctors and scientists have studied the effects of physical activity on the cardiovascular system. Those who sit for long periods of time generally have more cardiovascular problems and heart ailments than those who are in jobs that keep them moving.

There are newly-found and valuable health benefits for movement that are constantly being discovered, but the bottom line is that it’s better to be moving. The only complaint some standing desk workers have expressed are foot and lower leg discomfort. Comfortable shoes are a must, and a lot of companies are now also seeing the advantage of special ergonomic mats made for the standing worker. Togo Gen is a mat that not only adds cushion, but has raised areas for changing the position of the feet and stretching muscles while encouraging movement. This mat reduces leg fatigue and stimulates the feet to stay in motion. These types of mats are taking away the excuse not to stand and work – and helping encourage a smarter, healthier work environment.

So, I ask you, are you ready to take a stand against sitting? Let the standing revolution begin.

Dai Manuel talks about health, fitness and lifestyle online at DaiManuel.com and on Twitter @DaiManuel He is the author of the book, Whole Life Fitness Manifesto.