Only recently something has shifted. My total sitting time has dramatically plummeted. Standing time has sky rocketed. Movement is now the new norm.
What helped to make the shift from sitting to standing to walking?
I put it down to two things:
1) Perseverance (forcing myself to stand even when it felt strange); and
2) Being reminded of the health benefits of standing and walking (rather than sitting).
I’ll admit, using my standing and treadmill desks felt strange at first. My legs would get tired. Sitting felt a lot easier than standing.
No one ever told me that this was going to be challenging to begin with. That it would initially feel awkward. So I found myself sitting for most of the day with the occasional 20 minute burst of standing thrown in. Sure, it was better than nothing but it was still far from ideal.
What made all the difference in terms of getting my butt out of the chair? A bit of good old-fashioned nagging and an electronic timer.
Basically, I needed to be reminded to get out of my chair and stand. My brother would say, “Why aren’t you standing Jane? Get up!” I would think, “Yeah yeah…” and begrudgingly pull the handles on my desk to move into standing position.
When my brother wasn’t around, I’d set a timer to remind myself when I needed to stand. Outsourcing my standing time freed me up to focus on other things.
Over time, standing started to feel more natural and comfortable. And as for sitting? The tables have turned. Now sitting feels awkward. When I sit I feel sluggish and less alert.
2. Understanding the benefits of sit-stand desks and treadmill desks
The research is in: sitting for long periods of time reduces your lifespan. It also increases your chance of getting type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers and becoming obese.
“But I go to the gym/work/ride my bike every day!” I hear you say. I used to tell myself the same thing. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. One hour of exercise can’t counteract 8-hours of butt in chair. You’re still in the danger zone (cue dramatic music).
To improve your chances of living a healthy, long life, you need to focus on two things:
1) Reducing your overall sitting time; and
2) Breaking up periods of sitting with standing.
So we know that sitting sucks. But what does the research say about the benefits of standing?
Studies have found people who use standing desks experience less physical pain, feel more productive, are less fatigued, and more alert.
In addition, people who stand burn more calories a day than people who sit. One study found that standing while working during weekdays for a year burns the same amount of calories as running 10 marathons.
Do you like the sound of running 10 marathons on work time without actually running 10 marathons? Then get your comfy shoes on, grab that cushioned floor mat and start standing.
Still not convinced? Check out Dr Michael Greger’s video, ‘Standing up for your health’.
Other tips for using your standing desk
To get the most out of your standing desk and ensure you go the distance with your standing desk, consider doing the following:
Use a soft floor mat
This helps take the pressure off your feet and legs.
Don’t be like a statue
Engage in small movements whenever you can (e.g., do some calf raises, shoulders rolls, shake your legs, walk around a bit).
Mix it up
Don’t force yourself to stand all day. For instance, why not stand for 30 minutes and then sit for 30 minutes? See what feels best for you. Only you can figure out your stand to sit ratio.
Get your posture right
When I first started using my standing desk, I had a bad habit of leaning to one side and putting all my weight on one leg. I started to experience pain in my knees (thankfully, once I corrected my posture the pain disappeared).
When working at your desk, your feet should be shoulder width apart. Your knees should be straight but not locked.
Wear comfortable shoes
There’s nothing worse than standing for hours on end in uncomfortable shoes. Invest in a pair of flat shoes or opt for no shoes (on a soft mat).
To sum up
Remember, the more you stand, the easier it gets! When you feel like giving up, see if you can challenge yourself to keep standing for a little bit longer. Because what the sit-stand desks manufacturers don’t tell you is that working in this way takes practice.
But if you keep at it, the benefits will be well worth it.
Have you ever used (or currently use) a sit-stand desk? Or perhaps you have a treadmill desk? Do you have any tips to share on how you use your desk? I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to post a comment below.