Sitting can cause problems;
a standing desk may help
BY TERESA MEEK
“BY TOO MUCH sitting still, the body
becomes unhealthy; and soon the mind,”
wrote poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
His words, written in the ;;th century,
ring truer than ever today. Study after study
confirms that sitting isn’t just not good
for you—it’s bad. Seriously bad.
Too much sitting increases your
risk for heart disease and stroke,
according to the American Heart
Association (AHA; heart.org). It’s
linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that
includes high blood pressure, belly fat
and abnormal cholesterol levels, says
the Mayo Clinic ( mayoclinic.org).
A study cited by the American Diabetes
Association ( diabetes.org) found that a
sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of
developing Type ; diabetes by ;; percent.
It gets worse. Sitting is associated with
colon cancer, muscle degeneration, poor
circulation in legs, soft bones, herniated
disks and “foggy brain,” experts say.
“Sitting is just not good for us, and our
sedentary time has increased over the
decades,” says Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, a
spokesperson for the AHA. In ;;;;, average
sedentary time was ;; hours a week. By
;;;;, it had increased to ;; hours. Today,
between home and work, the average office
worker spends ;; hours sitting each day.
Surprisingly, exercise alone doesn’t
solve the problem of sitting too long. “We
sometimes think we can sit all day and go
to the gym and we’ve solved our issue, but
it’s not enough,” Bauman says. “You don’t
eliminate all the risks by exercising.”
If you’re stuck working at a desk all day,
make a point of getting up and moving or
stretching. You might start by simply stand-
ing rather than sitting whenever you have
the chance, Mayo Clinic doctors suggest.
Even small movements help the body
break down fats and sugars and can lead to
weight loss and increased energy. According
to an article in the British Journal of Sports
Medicine ( bjsm.bmj.com), desk-based workers should aim for two to four hours a day
of light physical activity or standing, such
as at an adjustable-height desk.
Costco member Dan Tarara, department chair of exercise science at High Point
University, in High Point, North Carolina,
has used a standing desk for over two years.
“I absolutely love my standing desk,” he
says. “I feel like I have more energy and my
productivity is better.” The desk has also
relieved tension in his upper back and a
crick in his neck he used to get from sitting
Though it’s no substitute for exercise,
a standing desk does help you burn a few
extra calories and raises your metabolism
somewhat, Tarara notes. It also improves
concentration. “It helps increase the blood
flow to your brain. It helps you have a little
more mental energy and focus, particularly
in the afternoon, after lunch,” he says.
How much time should you spend
standing? Some researchers have developed
protocols, like eight minutes of standing
and two minutes of moving around for every
half hour of sitting. Do what works best for
you, advises Tarara. He spends ;; percent
of his workday standing. A colleague uses
the “up” position on her standing desk for
two or three hours, and that’s enough to
Standing desks aren’t for everyone. If
you have arthritis in your knees or hips, you
may not be able to tolerate standing for long
periods. If you have plantar fasciitis
(inflamed tissue on the bottom of your foot)
or bone spurs in your feet, standing may
exacerbate your symptoms. But for people
who don’t have those conditions, standing
desks are a great option.
Adam Broetje, a Costco member and
CEO of digital marketing agency Odd Dog
Media, bought standing desks for his five
employees after reading about the evils of
sitting. “They’ve been incredible. It’s something I wish we had done years ago,” he says.
Employees say they get an energy boost
and focus better, particularly during the
post-lunch lag. Seeing co-workers raise or
lower desks reminds others to do the same.
Standing helps Broetje concentrate on
“mind-numbing” documents like legal
contracts. “The simple act of raising the
desk allows me to focus and get more done.
When you stand up, it’s like a fresh start,”
he says. C
Teresa Meek is a Seattle-area writer.
Costco members will ;nd a variety of
adjustable-height standing desks year-round on Costco.com and seasonally at
• Set a timer on your computer (or
Fitbit) to remind you to get up and
stretch or walk for a few minutes
• Coffee breaks aren’t just for coffee.
Make a point of circumnavigating the
office or, better yet, the building.
• Suggest standing meetings. Bonus:
They tend to be shorter.
• Periodically swap your chair for an
exercise ball, which allows for more
Get up! Simple ways
to increase your
movement at work
FOR YOUR HEALTH