Week 15 – Time to Take a Stand!

If your job finds you with your backside firmly planted in a chair, it’s time to take a stand! Literally! I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle (in other words – sitting a lot.) Where the focus used to be on our evening television viewing habits, scientists are now taking a look at our daytime lack of movement. Many people now have jobs that entail sitting all day; some don’t even get up for lunch, settling for a quick lunch right there at their desk, and the impact this has on health is now being studied.

During the school year, I’m on my feet a lot. (It seems I can’t really talk unless I am moving; I’m sure my students leave my class with well-exercised neck muscles from following me around the room.) But in the summer I get very sedentary. Most of the day I am at my laptop researching for the blog, for my husband’s battle against diabetes, or for the upcoming school year. I’m often amazed at how much time has passed without me moving from my chair.

Well my research this week got a rise out of me! I am on my feet as I type this. I set a thirty-minute alarm on my phone whenever I sat down. When it went off, I got up and stayed up for at least another half hour (usually more.) This was my routine all day.

Think about it – when we sit the muscles in the lower half of our bodies (which are our largest muscles) have nothing to do. They literally shut down. When we stand, even without doing anything else, the muscles in our legs, posterior, and back are working constantly to maintain balance. There are thousands of muscular contractions happening even when engaging in light movement. One of the studies I read showed this graphically with a record of the muscular-electrical impulses that were present when someone stood and the relative lack of impulses when they were sitting.  At the very least we are burning more calories when we stand – perhaps two to three times as many.

In addition to energy expenditure, studies are indicating a very strong possibility that spending most of the day in a sedentary posture increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), and metabolic syndrome (the precursor to diabetes.)  While the science looking into these are still relatively new and a lot more research needs to be done, it would come as no surprise to me to find that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Some businesses, realizing the importance of keeping their employees healthy, have made standing desks available to their office workers. (I just put a box on my table and put my laptop on the box – yeah, I’m that cheap.) Desks designed to fit over a treadmill are available so a person can slowly walk while working. I’m not sure I would like that, but I did find I like standing while working. I actually rarely stood still; I was more likely to dance a bit, shuffle my feet back and forth, or even walk around in circles as I pondered a point.

I found I was actually able to focus on and comprehend the material I was reading better than when I was seated. Maybe it caused the blood to move through my brain faster. I did sit down every 45 – 60 minutes and worked while sitting for a half hour before standing again. It will be interesting to see if I can build up to working while standing for several hours.

You know, I remember seeing a show set in the 1800’s where the chairs were hung on pegs during the day so that the wife would not be tempted to sit down when there was work to be done. Perhaps that is not such a bad idea after all…

Try standing more while you work, or at least get up every 20 minutes and take a quick walk up and down the hall. Then post in the comments below and let us know if it makes a difference in your life.

Additional Reading and Sources:

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  1. Lisa

    Guess what I’m doing right now? :) Good post, RoseAnne!

  2. Amy Jo Sirianni

    My sister was in the hospital last week for multiple blood clots in her lungs. She has a desk job at home so she sits at the computer all day. The doctor has told her she must get up and walk around during the day. I think the alarm clock idea is great and I will suggest it to her. No excuses for us in the summer in Maine though!

  3. I am so sorry to hear that about your sister, Amy! Praying she is ok and that she can keep herself moving and healthy. Her experience should be a motivation to the rest of us.

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