The sort of image that may come to mind when we see or hear the term “Stand-Up Guy” has nothing to with today’s topic (although I can attest to being a “Stand-Up Guy” most of the time). Instead, I’m using the phrase in reference to my recent decision to start using a Stand-Up Desk, also known as a Standing Desk.
Most of us have heard or read in various articles that sitting all day at the office is not good for our health. But how bad can it be when we’ve been doing it for decades? Sitting seems so natural, why all the publicity now on why it can be detrimental to our health. I recently listened to The On Point Podcast with Tom Ashbrook, a very informative podcast where various expert guests were on board to discuss and provide some interesting points (based on research) about the pros and cons of sitting too much.
Several studies have been conducted on the subject. For example, research conducted by Kaiser Permanente in California enrolled more than 80,000 men aged 45 and older about a decade ago in a study to see how the time they spent sitting and engaging in physical activity affected the odds they would develop heart failure.
No one with existing heart problems was included in the study.
Over 10 years, the researchers followed up on the health of these men and here’s what they found:
Not engaging in much physical activity was more strongly associated with heart failure than just sitting a lot. But each behavior was linked to an increased risk for heart failure.
Men with the lowest level of physical activity were more than twice as likely to develop heart failure than those in the most active group. The men who spent the most time sitting were also more than twice as likely to develop heart failure than those who sat the least.
The study did not definitively correlate being more sedentary or exercising less to causing heart failure. The activities and heightened risks were associations. However, the findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence that sitting and a lack of activity aren’t good for your heart.
In addition, The American Cancer Society tracked 123,000 people for an 18-year period and found the death rate was higher in people that sat more than six hours per day.
In another study with over 200,000 participants, researchers noted that even active people (those who exercised for at least five hours a week) had an increased risk of death if they sat longer.
Sitting too much also increases your chances of type 2 diabetes, even if you exercise regularly. A 2013 study of 63,000 Australian men found that the risk of type 2 diabetes rose with an increase in sitting time.
Using your major muscles — such as those in your legs and back — speeds up your metabolism. But when you’re sitting, those muscles aren’t being used. That can slow down your metabolism and lead to weight gain. Enough weight gain leads to obesity, which plays a part in high blood pressure, some cancers, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, breathing problems, and more.
There was also this one test conducted by a company which showed that standing desks improved productivity by up to ten percent.
With all of this research pointing toward the benefits of sitting less, I was eager to incorporate it into my lifestyle and I did so about 2 months ago. When I stood up at work for the first time, it wasn’t that bad because I’m generally a physically active guy. In addition to exercising at the gym 3 to 4 times a week, I have worked in positions in the past that required that I move around and about throughout the day.
The transition was not difficult. As of this writing, I use a standing desk for about 80% of my work day. Standing has helped me to remain more focused while working on various tasks. I also feel more energized and motivated throughout the day. My physical well being has also improved.
Although standing while working works for me, it may not be for everyone. The reality is, sitting isn’t necessarily bad. It’s sitting for long periods of time without movement that’s the killer. In fact, staying in any position for too long isn’t healthy. So if you choose to sit for your entire work day, be sure to stand up for a few minutes every hour or so. And more importantly, if you choose to stand while working, understand that doing it incorrectly can cause more harm than good. Know the rules!
In many of the studies about the negative effects of sitting, researchers are pointing toward regular physical inactivity as the problem. Familiarize yourself with the various research on the subject, stand up and stay active. While you’re at it, here are a couple of great articles about The History, Benefits and Uses of Standing Desks and Everything Science Knows Right Now About Standing Desks.