Add Years To Your Life With This One Simple Change

Stand up more to drastically improve your health!There’s a simple change you can make today – even right now, possibly – that will do more to save your life than you realize.

It’s surprising, too, how natural and perfectly normal it is and yet how many people will think you’re odd for doing it (but who said being odd was a bad thing, eh? :) )

For example, the first week I did it people would stop by, laugh a bit, and ask me why in the world I’d want to do it. Others would spot me, chuckle, shake their heads, and walk away.

Who would have thought standing was so controversial?!

Sitting too much could kill you

We all know that people with desk jobs sit too much and that we should try to move around more, but it’s much more important than you might realize.

Not to sound too alarmist right off the bat, but there have been studies done that correlate long periods of sitting with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Here’s the ridiculous part: regular exercise does NOT help you if you also spend a lot of time sitting. Let me say that again: if you spend several hours a day sitting, your risk for cardiovascular disease is elevated *regardless of* how much exercise you get every day. Simply astounding.

It’s not just cardiovascular health that is affected by sitting too much. There’s a whole host of problems that can come up:

  • Your chance of developing metabolic syndrome could increase 26% for every hour you’re sedentary
  • You hardly burn any calories at all (the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to lose fat!)
  • Your muscles don’t move, so your metabolism slows down
  • Your ability to burn fat decreases
  • Good cholesterol starts to drop within 20 minutes
  • You can develop bad posture that will cause lots of problems later
  • So much pressure on your back could cause you back pain as well
  • In fact, your legs, hips, back, spine, shoulders, and neck are all negatively affected by too much sitting
  • Sitting 6+ hours a day makes you 40% more likely to die early (an article I read said you have a higher chance of dying within the next 15 years)

What does standing more get you?

Instead of focusing more on the terrible things that sitting does for you, let’s take a deeper look at the benefits of standing:

  • improved range of motion in your spine, hips, knees, and ankles
  • help prevent (or reverse) osteoporosis
  • develop and improve your core muscle group, balance, etc.
  • you are more alert (maybe because there’s more blood flow)
  • get better sleep
  • burn 500 extra calories a day (an extra 52 pounds a year!)
  • increased blood flow means less risk of blood clots

Personally, I’ve noticed that my back no longer hurts when I lay down to bed at night like it used to. My legs feel stronger (the first week or so, they actually felt like I had worked out each day), and my posture is generally better.

So how can you stand more in a day?

The thing that specifically inspired me to write this post is my new way of working: I use a standing desk (of sorts).

My setup is pretty rudimentary, but it’s sufficient. I have a table that is at a pretty good level for standing and typing. My monitor is raised, and I try my hardest to stand evenly between both feet.

So I don’t end up standing all day long (which apparently isn’t good either – in addition to eventually being painful), I have a timer that reminds me when to sit. I’ve got it set for 30 minutes standing and a 5 minute rest. My daily goal is to stand at least 8 sessions.

If you think a standing desk would be useful to you, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Buy a table for $20. No need for a $150 standing desk at first.
  • Take sitting breaks every 30 minutes
  • Listen to your body: if you’re standing too much (especially at first), you’ll be achy. Sit down for a bit.
  • Try standing barefoot. That gets your feet activated and will help improve your posture
  • Use a timer to help you remember to take breaks. I use FocusBooster.

I’d be remiss to not point out something I found out myself: dancing is SO much easier when you’re standing. ;)

What if you still don’t want to stand?

In an interview on NPR (listen to the first 10 minutes or so), NY Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds referenced a study that showed if you can stand up for two minutes every 20 minutes, you can alter the way your body responds physiologically. It improves blood flow, keeps your muscles burning fat, and decreases risk of diabetes and heart disease.

If standing most of the day isn’t your thing, or maybe something you physically can’t do, here are some tips to help you reap some of the benefits of not sitting all day:

  • See if your IT dept will set you up to a printer that’s farther away from your desk
  • Use a smaller cup and fill it up every time you empty it
  • Walk over to coworkers to talk instead of use the phone or IM
  • Park farther away from your office door to increase the time you spend standing before sitting again on your way home
  • Take periodic walks
  • Use a productivity timer to remind you to stand more (like mine helps me know when to sit)
  • Perform some stretches to keep from tightening up too much.

I’d have never imagined something so simple could be so beneficial (or so detrimental if ignored), but I’m glad I found out about these studies now. Honestly, I find that I prefer to stand while I work even though it was kind of sucky at first.

If you’re not convinced yet, take a look at this awesome infographic that came through the twitter feed earlier in the week. It does a good job getting the point across: Sitting Kills.

We’d love to hear from you! How are you dealing with a desk job? What do you break up the sitting with? Have you started standing at work already? Chime in in the comments!

References:

photo by Logan Ingalls

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Comments

  1. Interesting stuff. In addition to the physical health benefits of standing, I’m sure there are some mental benefits as well. I know that whenever I need to solve a complex problem, I stand up and work on a whiteboard. For some reason, it clears my mind, allows me to create.

    In your research, did you come across anything about the mental health benefits of standing?

    • J P, I didn’t find any studies proving a link between standing and any mental health benefits, but one of the links talks about a couple. It mentions being more alert, increasing cognition, and sort of obvious things like facilitating play more than sitting as well as more eye-to-eye interaction with peers which they say helps self-esteem. I agree with you; I often work better while standing (and I get distracted less).

      -j

  2. Peggy Clements says:

    My 102 year old dad credits (partially) his longevity with the fact that he stood for his entire career. He was a cabinet-maker. I never really believed that was it till now. Of course, the fact that he was an organic gardener before organic gardening was cool could have helped as well.

  3. Great article! You make so many good points regarding the benefits of standing as well as how much better you feel outside of work. I know I feel more lethargic when I’m sitting all day. I blogged about the same thing a few months ago, although it wasn’t written nearly as well as yours.
    http://jasonwhurley.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/standing-while-i-work/

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