My career as a journalist and editor has been performed largely from within the confines of chairs.
I have converted to standing while working. It was sudden; I’d be casually planning a gradual transition but ultimately made the switch cold turkey. And it was recent—only two weeks ago, in fact. But in that short time, I’ve already learned a few important things about standing at work.
1. It’s easier than I thought.
Sure, standing is easy, and I’ve always liked standing. I’m an active person outside of work today, hitting the gym and participating in sports regularly. But to stand in the same spot while thinking and typing? For hours at a time? It intimidated me. I imagined a sore lower back, stiff legs, restless feet, and general discomfort.
Some of this I experienced, briefly—there is, of course, an adjustment period. But it was much shorter and much less painful than I had anticipated. By the end of my first week, standing had already starting feeling natural. I wasn’t sore or even restless. Heck, I was comfortable.
2. The benefits are immediate and profound.
This is the big one. All those benefits about standing you keep hearing? They’re real. Standing keeps your muscle active and your metabolism revved, burning anywhere from 25 to 50 calories hourly versus sitting. That’s up to 400 extra calories burned daily for a typical office worker, or more than two pounds of fat per month based on a regular workweek.
Meanwhile, sitting remains “the new smoking.”
Research confirms a sedentary lifestyle is correlated with higher incidences of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Sitting triggers all manner of serious, long-term impacts: bad posture by causing anterior pelvic tilt, poor hip mobility, and a slower metabolism. The list of detrimental effects on our minds and bodies from sitting all day is virtually endless—yet somehow not scary enough to get most people up off their asses.
3. There’s no going back for me.
I feel better. My posture has already improved. And sitting now feels odd—more than half an hour in the chair and I feel sluggish, my muscles begging me to stand up and stretch. My body is no longer happy sitting for prolonged periods, and neither is my mind. I still sit a couple of times during my workday, but only for a few minutes at a time, to rest my feet, knees, and back as recommended, even though they typically feel fine. But overall, I’ve reduced my net daily sitting by about 85%, and I can’t imagine ever returning to my old ways.
It seems obvious, from the staggering damage it does, that humans are not designed to sit for very long. Research certainly agrees: we’re working against our natural selves when we slouch in a chair all day. Thus, the transition to standing is usually not difficult because it’s typically what the body is quietly asking us to do.
I can’t recommend standing enough, even for an hour or two a day. And don’t just stand: stretch for a couple minutes every hour, and try to walk during a coffee or lunch break, whether outside or just around the office. These small things add up very quickly and offer amazing long-term benefits.
Smoking lost its cool factor a long time ago. Hopefully sitting will be recognized as a danger to our health soon, too.