Today is my workout rest day. I’ve spent the entire day doing nothing but a few household chores, a bit of grocery shopping, reading news on-line and blogging. The great thing about today however is that the day has been my least sedentary one ever, because today is the day that I did away with sitting in front of the computer for hours at a time, and instead I spent the entire day on my feet.
A couple of years ago, I read a couple of articles on-line that mentioned a link between prolonged sitting and various diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, various metabolic diseases, chronic back pain and back injury. Being a naturally curious person with a bit of an interest in anything remotely medically related, I read a little further and I was both alarmed yet not really surprised at what the research was telling me, that sitting down was literally shaving years off my life!! If you’re not convinced that sitting is actually harmful to you, try this google scholar search and have a read of some of the research papers about the health impact that comes from extended periods of inactivity.
Now as someone who has been a professionally paid “sitter” in one form or another, nearly my entire working life has been in IT and required me to be highly skilled and productive, yet incredibly sedentary. To make matters worse, for 5 years I used a motorcycle as my primary mode of transport, and because I was able to literally park anywhere that I liked, I would get up in the morning, wolf down a quick breakfast, then ride my motorcycle from door to door between my home and workplace, sit for between 8 and 14 hours per day at my desk with very few breaks except to get my lunch or attend meetings, then ride my motorcycle home again, and when I got home I’d feel so tired from a long and busy day that I’d simply flop on the couch and watch a movie before heading to bed. Combine this very low level of activity with a poorly managed diet, and it’s no wonder that this recipe for disaster led to my increasing weight and declining health and fitness.
To address the issue of sitting all day long, I’d get up often, stretch, walk down the stairs to chat with the receptionist, or simply walk around the block every now and then. The problem is that this effort has been quite sporadic and while the research says that this will add 2 years to my life, I figure that I’d prefer to live a couple of extra decades. A little while ago, I read about the idea of a standing desk, and with my new found urge to become fitter and healthier, I figured that one of the simplest and best ways to ensure I could be more active while at my computer or watching the TV was to simply stand up rather than sitting down all day. The problem… most standing desks cost more than a couple of hundred dollars. The solution… spend the least amount of money possible to modify the furniture that I have to allow me to work at my desk standing up.
After a little digging around in the intergooglz, I found an article at lifehacker which showed me a great and simple modification for my existing desk that is sturdy, stable, and that I was able to implement for only $20 (Aud). I bought a couple of sturdy metal brackets and a Lack side table from Ikea, and with an old Ikea shelf that I wasn’t using, I knocked up my own standing desk in less than 20 minutes.
So after one whole day where I’ve spent less than an hour sitting down, what have I learned…
- My feet hurt! A lot! but that is to be expected really because I’m using the muscles in my feet constantly, and I’m not used to it. This will become less of a problem with time, and the good thing about getting sore feet is that it encourages me to move a lot more. I’m constantly shifting my weight from one foot to the other, or I’m walking about the house, going outside to spend time with my dogs and getting my Vitamin D “shot” for the day. And of course if it hurts too much, I can always take a break from standing in front of the PC and do something else… and sit for a couple of minutes to rest my ankles.
- I’m more alert than I have been in quite some time. I’ve often noticed that extended periods in front of the computer leaves me feeling a little sleepy. I have on more than one occasion fallen asleep at my desk, even after having had a good sleep the night before! Not so while standing all day.
- I’ve been slouching a lot less during the day, and I haven’t felt any pains in my neck or upper back which I would usually get through sitting with poor posture.
- I’ve been monitoring my heart rate, and I’ve noticed that while standing, my heart rate has been consistently elevated (my normal at rest is about 61bpm), averaging 77bpm for nearly the entire day. Just think of all of those calories that I’ve been quietly expending without actually trying! (Bwa-ha-ha-ha!!!)
- The desk is perfect ergonomically for me only. Others will not enjoy using it unless they are the same height as me. I could solve this by using an adjustable desk, but they can be very expensive… although if I could afford it, I would seriously love to have one of THESE!!!
I’ve also realised that I will need to get into the habit of standing for long periods for when I become a personal trainer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a PT sitting unless it was at a piece of gym machinery during a workout! Better I start now and get used to it than spend my PT working hours fidgeting and annoying my clients!
So while I can’t really conclude anything specific about working at a standing desk, I can take a few educated guesses about what is likely to happen. I expect that I will be effortlessly stabilizing my core muscles, I will be burning additional calories, and if the research that Dr. Levine of the Mayo Clinic mentions in his CBS interview from mid 2012 holds true, I’ll be lowering my triglycerides, improving my cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and improving the muscle tone in my core, legs, feet and back.
All this without needing to bust your ass in the gym 3-5 times per week?!! Well… no. I’ll still need to build my health and fitness as a number of lifestyle changes, and I see using this standing desk idea as simply a part of that bigger picture part of my self improvement journey. I’ll write again in a few days or weeks to let you know how this standing idea is going, and in the meantime I’d be interested to know if any of you out there have considered or even started to use your own standing desk.
- The Health Benefits of the Standing Desk (savings.com)
- World’s Easiest Way to Be Much Healthier: Stand Up (inc.com)
- IKEA stand up desk: two months later (lostechies.com)
- Stand Up, Startup! (slideshare.net)
- Standing Desks: The Healthier Historic Alternative (business-opportunities.biz)
- Stand-Up Desks Gaining Favor in the Workplace – NYTimes.com (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- Your Desk Is Making You Stupid (inc.com)