standing and working-hero

I used to sit down on the job. For hours a day, derriere planted firmly in chair, I read, wrote, and edited. It’s been a torment — I love what I do, but I hate to sit. Over the years, I’ve developed little tricks to burn off excess energy and add activity bits throughout the day, like bouncing my right leg and printing to a printer far down the hallway.

I’ve discovered something better. A few months ago, I fired my chair and brought in a stand-up desk. This move has made a huge difference in my work day. My back isn’t so achy. I’m taking several thousand more steps each day. I feel more alert, especially in the afternoon, and it seems like I am getting more done each day.

The human body is designed to stand, not sit. Standing is better for the back than sitting. It strengthens leg muscles and improves balance. It burns more calories than sitting. It is also a great antidote to the formation of blood clots deep in the legs. When you sit for long periods, blood flow slows through the legs. Sluggish blood flow can set the stage for a blood clot to form. You’ve probably heard of this happening to people on long flights, but it also can happen in the office. Standing and walking squeeze valves in the leg veins, pushing blood upward toward the heart.

Even better, standing more might help you live longer. In a study of more than 100,000 men and women from all across the United States, those who sat for more than six hours a day were more likely to have died — mostly of cardiovascular disease — over the course of the 14-year study than those who sat for less than three hours a day. This relationship held true even among those who exercised regularly. Earlier studies have shown much the same thing.

I feel more alert while standing. And when I’m blocked by a problem or temporarily bored, it’s a snap to walk away from the desk and pace. Before, while sitting, I tended to stay in my chair and stew or get drowsy.

Like anything, it takes a while to get used to standing up to do office work. Typing and talking on the phone while standing came easily, but I find I still prefer to sit while writing with pen and paper.

Standing for too long, or the wrong way, can cause sore feet or knees, low back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and other health problems. I realized that I often lock my knees when I stand or unconsciously put my weight on my right leg and hip. So I have to remind myself every so often to relax my knees and balance my weight on both legs. Adjusting the desk so your keyboard and monitor are at the right height, and taking breaks, will help you get the most out of a stand-up desk.

If you choose to stand at work, you’ll be in good company. Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson were said to have used stand-up desks. Winston Churchill, Vladimir Nabokov, Ernest Hemingway, and Donald Rumsfeld are other notable standers.

 


This article has been excerpted from The Many Benefits of Standing at Your Desk by Patrick J. Skerrett.

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