How long have you been sitting down for? A few minutes or even a few hours?
It’s not uncommon to read in the news that as a global community, we are not active enough and spend too much time sitting down. With the rise of smart phones, longer commutes, box-set binging on Netflix, and being able to do almost everything in your fluffy pyjamas from the comfort of your living room sofa, we are all sitting on average more than 8 hours per day.
As someone who has never stood at my desk to work or even seen anyone else do so in my native Britain, I wanted to find out more about standing work stations and the benefits that come with standing while you work. Honestly speaking, if someone had told me I had to stand at my desk for work, I would assume they were joking.. stand!? HA!, but, here at Notrax®, the focus on standing has been a focal point of the company that I noticed even from my interview where I had to stand at a standing desk with what I later found out was a piece of our best selling anti-fatigue mats under my feet. I remember thinking at the time how strange it was that I had to stand at a job interview, “Is this how they do things in The Netherlands?” my British brain thought. The mat underneath my feet was incredibly comfortable and the standing must have helped as here I am 6 months later still working for that very company.
Truthfully, (and perhaps rather shamefully) for around 4 months I’ve had a stand capable desk (an extendable platform to raise your monitor up to standing height) on top of my normal desk which I have never used. Partly because I didn’t know how to work it, but mainly due to the fact that I had never even considered standing to do my work. For me, the it has been doubling as extra shelf space and a way to hide my snacks from the praying eyes of colleagues.
I wanted to experience standing at work for myself and decided to take the plunge and figure out how to raise my desk, and set myself an ambitious (for me) target of standing for 1 hour. I originally thought that 1 hour would be too long, how would I be able to concentrate if I was so focused on the strain of standing? As I plodded away with my work, I found myself able to concentrate on what I was doing even more than when I was sitting, so much so in fact that when I eventually glanced over at the time I was shocked to see that I had been standing ALL morning. What!? I had gotten so much work done during the time I was standing, that I had merely blinked and it was time for lunch!
Over the next week I decided to keep up with my new year’s deskolution (get it?) aiming to stand every few hours for around an hour or so to see how much better I felt day-to-day and over the course of the week. I felt a remarkable improvement in my overall productivity and even felt better physically and mentally just from standing for an hour every few hours.
It’s not just me that feels the effects of what I am dubbing standing power, in a study carried out over 6 months in a call centre which received standing desks it found that users of the standing desks were on average 45% more productive on a DAILY basis than their seated colleagues! The increase in focus you experience when standing is because standing works your muscles and allows the muscles to pump more fresh blood and oxygen through to your brain, no movement means muscles pump less fresh blood.
But, if improved concentration isn’t enough to raise you from the pits of your office chair, what other problems come from sitting too much?
For starters, our bodies just aren’t made to sit for long periods of time. Hundreds of years ago, humans lived on their feet, whether tending the crops in their fields, or hunting for food, we were made for standing but modern day advancements have forced us into office chairs, car seats, and sofas and with that comes new health problems.
Sitting disease is a new term coined for the health issues that come from sitting too much. If you do a simple internet search it’s incredibly easy to find hundreds of articles, publications, and studies explaining why sitting is killing us, but before you brush me off as being too dramatic, studies have shown that excessive sitting increases the risk of obesity, and even death from cardiovascular diseases and cancer, the exact same risk factors associated with smoking! YIKES.
Your risk of obesity is increased due to the enzymes that help break down fat dropping to 90% as soon as you sit down, and calorie burning drops to just 1 per minute. For all of you who may be working on your new year’s resolutions to get in better shape, standing is also be a good way to burn some extra calories, but you don’t have to break out into lunges behind your desk to burn those calories, in an article published by the MayoClinic.org it states that even leisurely movement makes a huge difference and the muscle activity that’s needed for standing and other movement can awaken important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body that stall when you sit.
So now you might be thinking, “but I only sit at work, I exercise afterwards, that’s enough, right?” Wrong! In a study of marathon runners it found that even though they ran 40 miles per week, they still sat for almost 12 hours a day, this category of people are being called active couch potatoes, those who meet the recommended amount of exercise per week but who still sit for more than 8 hours per day, and studies have demonstrated that the risk factors associated with sitting for long periods of time alongside high levels of physical activity are independent from each other and this means that your daily exercise routines before or after work don’t cancel out or reverse the effects on your body of sitting in front of the computer all day.
From my experience using the standing desk, it has really opened my eyes to the risks of sitting but also to the benefits of not just standing, but also moving more during the day. Having felt the benefits from standing for myself, from being more productive, to just feeling more awake, I will certainly be continuing with my uprising and spreading the word with everyone I know.
Getting Started with Standing
To help you get started on moving more, here’s a few suggestions on the easier ways to fit in some extra movement throughout your day:
Stand up every 20 minutes – whether you’re talking on the phone, or talking to a colleague, or just grabbing some water or tea.
Set reminders to move – whether on your phone or on your outlook calendar, set reminders to move every 20 minutes.
Track your steps – expensive activity trackers are great but all you need to get started is a cheap pedometer. Increasing your steps is easy, take the stairs, walk during phone calls, park your car far away from your building. 10,000 steps per day is the recommended amount.