Although standing definitely has a number of benefits over sitting all day–such as increased circulation, increased body movement (burning calories), and less back and neck strain–there are some downsides to standing for long periods of time.
The most obvious downsides are apparent within a few hours of switching to a standing desk: a sore lower back and feet. Your body has been used to sitting for a good chunk of the day, and it takes some time to train your body to get used to a new posture. Beyond that though, there are some things to watch out for when spending extended chunks of your day on your feet:
Standing desks have made a few appearances over at the New York Times as of late.
The first article, “Stand Up While You Read This!“, details the dangers of sitting for too long and the benefits of making the change to a standing desk and getting more exercise and movement into your everyday routine. It goes into detail regarding the medical reasons that inactivity is bad for the body, and the metabolic rate changes associated with it.
So what’s wrong with sitting?
…the first is that sitting is one of the most passive things you can do. You burn more energy by chewing gum or fidgeting than you do sitting still in a chair. Compared to sitting, standing in one place is hard work. To stand, you have to tense your leg muscles, and engage the muscles of your back and shoulders; while standing, you often shift from leg to leg. All of this burns energy.
The second article, “Can’t Sit Too Long? There’s a Desk for That“, reviews a few custom standing desks created by companies such as GeekDesk and Anthro. The author describes hsi experience with standing desks and the transfer from standing to sitting.
…I discovered the adjustable-height desk. These so-called “sit/stand” models are equipped with an electric motor that lets them shift from chair height to person height at the push of a button. Unfortunately, they’re regarded as specialty furniture. Sit/stand desks tend to be expensive, hard to find and not very easy to test in person. That’s too bad. I got my hands on an adjustable-height desk a few weeks ago, and I can’t stop raving about it.
USAToday recently published an article entitled “The longer you sit, the shorter your life”, based on a research study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study followed a group of 123,216 volunteers over a period of 14 years to measure the effect of large spans of time of sitting coupled with little exercise upon one’s health. Unsurprisingly, it found that the more you sat and the less you exercised the higher the occurrence of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
In the study, people were more likely to die of heart disease than cancer. After adjusting for a number of risk factors, including body mass index (BMI) and smoking, women who spent six hours a day sitting had a 37% increased risk of dying versus those who spent less than three hours a day on their bottoms. For men the increased risk was 17%.
Exercise, even a little per day, did tend to lower the mortality risk tied to sitting, the team noted. However, sitting’s influence on death risk remained significant even when activity was factored in.
On the other hand, people who sat a lot and did not exercise or stay active had an even higher mortality risk: 94% for women and 48% for men.
To view the entire article head over to USAToday.com.
The first few days and weeks of standing half the day or more (at my standing laptop pedestal in the beginning) really took its toll on my legs and lower back. The fact that it was completely unlike what I had spent the better part of my career doing (sitting) was throwing my body a few curve balls. I would often have to sit down and take a break every once in a while when my feel, legs, or back started aching.
Standing next to my desk wearing slippers or just socks definitely didn’t help matters. I’m guessing that the added cushioning from a good pair of shoes may have allowed me to go for longer periods without taking a break. Instead of wearing my shoes inside the house on my carpet though, I decided to shop around for a good standing “anti-fatigue” mat.
The February 2011 issue of Consumer Reports had an article entitled “Lose Weight, Stay Active” on pages 28-29. Tip number six describes how the simple act of standing at your desk can be an effective way to burn twice as many calories as sitting alone.
“When we’re sitting, we are burning almost as few calories as we do when we’re sleeping,” said Marc T. Hamilton, Ph.D., a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. “Sitting too much is hazardous to your health in a different way than exercising too little.”
Hamilton is a researcher in the new field of inactivity physiology, the study of what happens when we’re, well, just sitting there. Research shows that the more you sit, the higher your risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. That seems to be true even for people who get the prescribed 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
Read the full article over at the Consumer Reports web site.
If I had to say one thing about the first few days of working while standing it’d be, “it takes some getting used to”. It’s hard to train one’s body after sitting in front of a computer for years on end, 12 hours or more a day sometimes. I am happy to say though that it all pays off in the end though, so stick with it!
The first thing you’ll notice is that your feet will hurt. You can alleviate this to a point by buying a gel standing mat or a less expensive foam mat of some kind (which I will cover in detail in a later post). You will also notice that your back will get sore. If you’re tall–like I am–it might add to the initial ‘shock’.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I was looking for something to serve as a step-up tool to standing up for most of the day at a standing desk. I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that I had the potential of not liking or not being able to do.
Enter the Quiklok (Quik Lok) LPH-003 laptop stand. Quiklok is primarily a manufacturer of musician’s accessories based out of Illinois. They offer a wide selection of instrument stands, including a few stands designed to hold laptops.
So, like some of you, I spent a decent amount of time researching standing desks, and the pros and cons of standing while working versus sitting and working. I even interviewed a couple of friends that had plunked down a decent amount of money for ‘treadputer’ desks–motorized height-adjustable desks with a treadmill standing area so that you can slowly walk while you’re working on your PC. Being able to walk an average of six miles a day while working definitely had its appeal…
So, why write about standing desks? Seems like a pretty boring subject, right? Well, as I’ll cover in detail on the ‘About’ page, it’s because I’ve benefited from switching to a standing desks and want to spread the word to those who may potentially benefit from the information.
I’ll be covering the pros and cons of standing desks (also known as stand-up desks), product reviews (desks and accessories), and tips on switching to and maintaining a stand-up style of work (as I’m guessing that’s what most people will be doing while standing).
Stay tuned–I’ll be posting the first bits in the coming week or so!