Thursday, October 25, 2012

Don't be sedentary

A couple of years ago I managed to score a standing desk at work. It wasn't easy – I’d expressed interest in having one quite a while earlier, but office politics intruded. In the end I inherited one from a colleague who was leaving. Why would I want to stand all day anyway? In recent years there has been a lot of research indicating that sedentary behaviour (i.e. sitting) is bad for health. It seems that even if you get plenty of exercise outside of working hours, sitting all day increases the risk of early death. Apparently prolonged time sitting can adversely affect things like triglycerides, cholesterol, blood sugar and weight. So it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer to me. There’s plenty of evidence out there that we should stand more and sit less (Google it if you don’t believe me) and the topic has also been featured in the mainstream press lately, e.g. the New York Times,, and Forbes. Some more intrepid souls than me have even rigged up treadmills under their standing desks, to combine standing with constant exercise. I took to my standing desk like the proverbial duck to water, though I know some people find them a bit weird at first.

Anyway, the thing about getting a standing desk – when most of your colleagues still sit all day – is that you need to maintain a cheery sense of humour as there are a few FAQs. For example:

– Don’t you get tired, standing all day? No. Realllly? No.
– Don’t your legs/feet ache? No (I keep several pairs of shoes at the office, and alternate between them. I think this helps. Or you could get a rubber mat.)
– Why would you want to stand all day? Rather than sharing my family’s horrible cardiovascular history with random strangers, I opt for sharing the research. I do work with science nerds, after all! I've printed out a bunch of articles about why sitting is bad for us, and pinned them on a notice board near my office.

It is hard to say whether standing rather than sitting has made me more healthy. I don’t have a control group to compare with. I feel happier and healthier though. On the fence about standing desks? I recommend giving one a go. They’re great!

Update: Monday 31 August 2015

Since writing this blog post almost three years ago my blood sugar has consistently been in the 'normal' range, rather than the 'pre-diabetic' category it used to fall into. I put the change down to the standing desk as my diet and exercise routine have barely changed. Yaaaay.

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