By June 7, 2011

Stand Up For Your Health

If you’re reading this page, chances are you’re a nerd. I have grown up working on the computer, playing video games, and watching television. That adds up to a lot of sitting. I sit less than I did even a year ago, but by my tally I’m in a chair or chair-like substance for 7 – 10 hours a day. When I was working for an advertising agency in Virginia during the late 90s I sat for 13 – 14 hours a day. Over the course of my adult life, I’d estimate that I’ve spent at least half of it sitting down. According to some new studies and research, that means I’ve spent half of my life killing myself.

Is Sitting a Lethal Activity? is a New York Times article written by James Vlahos. Written this April, the author participated in a Mayo Clinic study to measure the body’s response to sitting. In short, the metabolic rate of sitting people drops to nearly zero, and sitting for prolonged periods of time may have immediate and long-term effects on your health. I believe that the physical condition of your body has a direct impact on your mental and emotional state, so by extension sitting poisons your mind and your soul, too.

If you aren’t nervous enough about sitting, take a look at this information graphic generated by Medical Billing and Coding. It contains factoids from the Mayo Clinic study as well as info from other sources.

Go on and check it out, then read some things I’m going to do about sitting down all the time. G’wan, I’ll still be here.

Via: Medical Billing And Coding

Okay, done shoveling out your shorts yet? Here’s what I do today that you may be able to incorporate into your daily lifestyle:

  • Drink a lot of water. The objective here is two-fold: most of us are dehydrated, and drinking more water means you will have to get up to pee more often.
  • Listen to music at work. The Mayo Clinic research indicates that “fidgeting” helps the metabolism from flatlining. I find that listening to music makes me pump my leg, bob my head, or throw up both arms and shoot devil horns to my co-workers. Well, that’s not entirely true. I rarely pump my leg.
  • Take the stairs. We should have been doing this anyway. Don’t take the elevator if at all possible. For me, my threshold is six stories (or twelve flights of stairs). I try to elongate the time I spend walking at work whenever possible.
  • Park as far away as possible. Granted, crappy weather or dedicated parking may negate this, but whenever possible try to walk as much as you can.
  • Read standing up. Seems simple, but reading while standing in the morning means I sit 30 – 60 minutes less a day. If your television / computer allows, try watching TV while standing also.
  • Stand up during stand-ups. I’ve worked in agile / Scrum development environments for the last eight years or so. Despite different nuances and methodologies, all of the systems I’ve worked in had one thing in common: short meetings called “stand-ups.” Stand-up attendees are supposed to, well, stand up. This discourages extra talk, but it also gives you another opportunity to avoid sitting. It sounds silly, but a lot of places – including my current employer – allow sitting during stand-ups. Do what Simon says.
  • Avoid exercises with lots of sitting elements. I’m not saying to avoid exercise. What I am saying here is try to avoid exercises that entail a lot of sitting. Cycling is the prime example, especially stationary bikes. I know your heart rate, core, and legs are all going, but really? Consider how active and dynamic your body is during certain types of yoga poses. Do you really want to sit again, for over an hour or more, after sitting all day? Get up.

Of course, the biggest impact would be replacing your sitting work desk for a “standing” desk. Basically you elevate your monitor, keyboard, and mousing surface so that you may stand during your work day. I worked with a lady several years ago who broke her back in a car accident. Her fused vertebrae made it uncomfortable to sit too long. I wonder if that accident helped save her life.

Anyway, I’m going to make a slow transition to a standing desk here at the house. If it works, I’ll try it again at work. And of course, I’ll write up my experiences and pass them on here. 🙂

Stand up for your health, because no one else will.

Posted in: fitness & grooming

9 Comments on "Stand Up For Your Health"

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  1. Andrew says:

    A friend of mine just converted his home office to a walking desk – he bought a $100 treadmill off Craigslist, put his desk up on some tall sawhorses, and walks while he computes.

  2. EdH says:

    I converted to a standup desk both at home and work about 3 months ago. Wouldn’t go back for anything.

  3. Jenner says:

    After a motorcycle accident (yes, I was fully geared up) a few years ago it became intensely painful to sit more than a few minutes. I got the handyman at work to bring in a bunch of cinder-blocks to prop my desk up to standing elbow height and a medical device that held me standing straight, though slightly tilted backward, was employed to keep me standing up with easier balance. It was great, I could walk right out of the contraption and I did so, about ten times as often as I lifted myself out of a chair. My “recovery” from my injuries left me with better stamina for a long climb I had daily up stairs and 12 lbs lighter. People asked me if I got tired standing up all day, I actually got less tired and stiff standing. Tho in my present office the desk is at normal height and I do sit, I find the habits of getting up often did stick.

  4. DrFaulken says:

    Thanks for the responses — do you all have mats to stand on, or do you just stand on the regular floor?

    I stood for about four hours yesterday during meetings, and probably five today. It’s obvious that dress shoes suck ass for standing on all day. :

  5. Jenner says:

    @Dr – To do a work area you must do mats, and spare no expense, look at what chef’s walk on in kitchens. In a situation such as yours, shoes are everything. Best to find a supplier of professional work wear to get some real “standing all day” designed work shoes. Think in terms of the kinds of shoes someone who works at the toll booth at the bridge would wear, think OSHA. Do not think you can cross over to walking or hiking wear, those are a totally different set of objectives. The impact on your skeletal system can be reduced a lot by wearing the right shoes, more than you would think. Also, like anything you do, you have to get used to it. Doing anything unusual creates strain, once your body is used to it it ceases to do so. You didn’t make your first 8 hour motorcycle trip without getting a little sore!

    I thought about mentioning earlier, but my 88 year old father has been a “stand-er” my whole life. His desk is a standing desk, he reads at the front window for best light, still has the old wall phone with short too short to go more than three feet, he just never sits. He keeps his chairs to the side of the room and brings them out for “company”. He always eats standing, at the kitchen counter. Maybe that’s how he’s made it to 88.

  6. EdH says:

    I work in a typical office that has a concrete floor, pathetic padding and carpet that would probably work equally as well outside as inside. my feet were hurting a bit, probably more so because i wear Vibram Five Fingers around the office – zilch padding in those.

    so I got an industrial rubber mat you often see receipt checkers from Costco using. works much better for me.

    i will differ in opinion from jenner on the shoes. the more protection and padding a shoe has, the more it becomes like a cast for the foot. people walked around and stood around for a long time in little more than leather sandals. modern shoes are a recent development (hence the term modern 🙂 and contribute to things like back pain, varicose veins, flat feet, plantar fasciitis and a host of other maladies more than people think. Of course, then they go buy special “casts” from their podiatrist to fix it.

    i sometimes wear my Merrell Barefoot Tough Gloves which has a bit of padding in the way of the tread on the bottom, and they are more acceptable for many offices than VFF’s are.

  7. DrFaulken says:

    In “real life” I wear Merrell Maipo short shoes with Vibram soles — very little padding in them, and basically no heel. I also wear these for lifting kettlebells, as I try to have as much contact with the ground as possible. EdH, they are perhaps a little bit thicker and more aggressive than your Tough Gloves, which I think look awesome and may pick up for work.

    I wear Doc Martens during colder weather; they have the typical boot heel one would expect. They are comfortable, but I try not to wear them indoors.

    My work shoes have a flat, leather sole with a slight heel to them. They are uncomfortable as a mofo. 😉

    Jenner, thanks for sharing the info about your father. My dad’s an old horse, and I look to his life and try to emulate his best behaviors. I hope to honor your father by becoming a “stander.”

  8. EdH says:

    Here is more on this topic. Sitting just as dangerous as smoking.

    RE: Merrell and Vibram – they have a long history of working together and I think make great shoes. The Tough Gloves are my first pair but my wife has had others that used a thin Vibram outsole and loves them.

  9. Jenner says:

    I still stand by my shoes. Even tho open shoes with other desirable attributes may be better, my remarks were suited for someone perhaps standing in a conference room all day in “dress” shoes. If you’ve ever seen OSHA shoes they don’t look inviting at first glance. They aren’t soft, warm and cuddly, in fact they look hard and hostile. But if you think about it, if you can compress the padding with your finger then resting your 180lb body on it uses up the “padding” in the first five pounds leaving no protection for the rest of your weight, you are at the mercy of what’s under the insole and that can look scary. Walking is not standing. Walking is great for your body, standing is only one step above sitting, it’s sedentary and compresses all that should not be compressed. Shoes that feel warm and cozy the fist five minutes can seem like agony in five hours. The merits of open footwear I won’t debate, but they aren’t corporate. As for the substance under the foot, lots of research has gone into that and OSHA soles are your best bet for a stander.