This week’s tip: Stand up!
Have you heard that “sitting is the new smoking”? Sure, it seems a little extreme at first, but if you read up on the research, it’s true: too much sitting can correlate with major health risks. In an informative blog post, James A. Levine, MD, PhD (of the Mayo Clinic) outlines a variety of sound reasons why sitting too much is probably impacting your overall health. Too much sitting can cause:
- Sluggish nervous systems, which can lead to fatigue
- Weakened muscles, which can increase risk of back and joint pain
- Stagnant fat-burning enzymes, which can lead to weight gain
- Poor blood sugar and blood fat levels, which can increase heart risks
Fortunately, there is no nicotine involved in your sitting habit, so it’s pretty easy to quit! For many of us, our desk jobs are the major culprit for promoting our bad sitting habits. But there is a really easy solution: just stand up!
Personally, I have been lucky enough to have access to a standing desk at my job since we renovated our offices back in 2013. My standing desk is high desk with a high chair, so I can decide when I want to sit and when I want to stand without adjusting anything. Admittedly, I don’t stand quite as much as I probably should, but little reminders help: I made a sign that says “do you need to be sitting?” and I told my colleagues to nudge me if they see I’ve been sitting too much. I definitely notice that when I get into the standing habit more, I feel more energized and productive.
Even if your office isn’t already equipped with a standing desk, there are definitely some easy ways for you to give it a try:
- Get a pop-up desk like oristand. My colleague told me about this awesome, inexpensive pop-up desk that is really easy to use whenever you feel like it! It’s only $25. I honestly think it’s an incredibly valuable investment for any company to make in their employees’ wellness!
- Invest in an adjustable desk like VERIDESK. If you or your employer are willing to invest a little bit more money in your standing desk, I’ve heard that VERIDESK is a really nice option. It sits on top of your desk and easily lifts from a sitting to standing position.
- Create a DIY standing desk. My boyfriend constructed his own standing desk using a horizontal shelving unit like this one to lift up his monitor, and some of my colleagues have used reams of paper to lift their keyboards to be at a more appropriate height for them.
Now, if you decide to start standing at your desk (especially with a DIY option), you should know that there is a “correct” way to do it. Here are a few quick tips to make sure that your new standing habit is helping and not hurting.
- Take breaks. This is important especially when you are just starting out — you don’t want to exhaust or hurt yourself. I started out standing a couple of hours each day and now stand for about half of the day most days. It’s okay to stand for a large portion of your day, but only if you give yourself breaks from time to time. You don’t want to introduce other problems like back pain from spine compression or cardiovascular problems from the impact of gravity on your blood flow.
- Pay attention to your posture. When you are standing at your desk, you should be standing up straight, with good posture. Your monitor should be directly in front of your eyes (you shouldn’t have to look too much up or down to focus). Your elbows should be bent at just over 90 degrees, and your keyboard should be just below your elbow height.
- Wear appropriate footwear. Standing all day in your fancy heels may not be a good idea! If you need to maintain a more formal appearance at work, invest in shoes that look nice but have good arch support and are comfortable to stand in for an extended period of time. If you have a more casual office setting, like I do, you may be able to take off your shoes while you stand, and/or place a comfortable standing mat beneath your feet (I have heard that a gardening mat or a kick board works well!)
- Move around. If you are standing totally still all day… you are still being sedentary! It’s important to move around while you are standing. You could do some quick quad stretches while you are taking a break from typing, and you could periodically learn over and do a toe-touch. Definitely make an effort to take a walk around the office, refill your glass of water, and/or go the bathroom once per hour. Or try these 5 stress-busting yoga poses you can do at your desk!
If you LOVE standing at your desk and want to take it to the next level, you could try to introduce standing or walking meetings, encourage a daily lunchtime walk around the block with your colleagues, or even try a treadmill desk!
And don’t stop once you get home — you can try to integrate more standing and movement into your life by walking on the treadmill while you watch your favorite TV show or setting up a standing desk in your home office. I just set up a DIY standing desk in my bedroom to write this blog post and I think it might be one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. I’ve gotten so much stretching in just over the course of writing this post, and I feel great.
Let me know if you have a standing desk, or if this blog post inspired you to try it out!