by Ryan H. Law
On the first day of class I tell my students that they can stand as much as they want. It can be hard to sit still in a class for over an hour, and it turns out, it isn’t that good for us anyway.
What about sitting for work? About 25% of us sit for more than 8 hours a day, and the average American is active for less than 20 minutes a day1.
We’ve all seen the news headlines that say, “Sitting is the new smoking!”2 While most researchers believe that is an extreme, and unnecessary, comparison, sitting for long periods of time causes health problems, including an increased risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and death3.
Those who sit for long periods of time have a 90% greater chance of dying from cardiovascular events and a 49% greater change of dying from any cause when compared to their more active peers1.
When we sit our blood flow slows down and our metabolism slows down 90% after just 20 minutes1.
What is the answer to all of this? The key is getting some activity. If you are getting up and moving around for about 5-10 minutes every hour, you will counteract at least some of the effects of sitting.
Another great option is to consider a standing desk. If you stand at your desk, you are in good company! It’s reported that Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Ernest Hemingway, Leonardo DaVinci, and Winston Churchill all stood at their desks3.
Standing desks have been shown to increase brain function, boost creativity and boost productivity. It makes sense – getting up and down is going to increase your blood circulation and get more oxygen to your brain. The vast majority of those who used a standing desk reported increased vigor and energy.
I decided to try this out for myself. I didn’t buy a standing desk – I simply used a box that lifted my laptop to standing height. Simple, free, and effective.
Perhaps it is self-selection bias, but I found that I had better focus and I felt like I had more energy. I didn’t stand the entire time, nor do you want to. In fact, somewhere around a 50/50 stand/sit split has been found to be a great ratio3.
Some reearchers3 recommend you rotate about every 20 minutes, as standing still for long periods of time is not good for you either. Combine it with the Pomodoro Technique and you have a winning solution. Set a timer for 25 minutes and stand during that period, then walk around for 5 minutes. Set the timer again for 25 minutes, sitting this time, then walk around for 5 minutes.
You should start out slowly – maybe one or two 25 minutes standing sessions a day, then increase that over time.
If you want to take it to the next level, consider a treadmill desk, set at just 2 MPH. If you do this for an hour you’ll walk 2 miles and get 4,000 – 5,000 steps. If you do it for half your day you’ll get 8 miles and between 16,000 – 20,000 steps in. Of course, this takes time to build up to.
You can also try standing or walking meetings, standing when you are on a webinar, and walking outside when you are on a call.
What can you do today to increase your level of activity at work?
- Start standing at work more! Even a small increase in the amount of time you stand can have positive benefits.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not a doctor and I don’t play one of TV. This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
(1) Is Sitting the New Smoking?
(2) See for example The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking and Sitting is the New Smoking
(3) How Your Chair May Be Hurting You
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