my move to a standing desk: 4 months later

I got two different reactions when I told people I had moved to a standing desk.   The first was one of jealousy…the other extreme disbelief (and not in an encouraging way).  I know, it’s a fairly new trend that is just in its baby phase, but when the fitness freak in me heard that it was an option at my workplace, I couldn’t help but jump at the chance.  I had spent 5 years of my life sitting roughly 9 hours a day, and let me tell you, I was doing more squats than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime to make sure my butt didn’t turn into cellulite city.  It was getting out of control.

I’ve been at this standing thing for about 4 months now, and I have to admit, I don’t think I could ever go back to a full day of sitting. I won’t lie – I do have days where my legs feel tired when I get home or when I’m trying to run that extra mile on the treadmill.  But the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.  Not only do I burn enough extra calories each week to afford me more drinks on the weekend, but it also keeps me awake after particularly hefty lunches (goodbye, food comas!) and allows me to pull off a couple of dance moves each day while listening to Pandora.

Now, I want you to realize that I don’t stand for 9 hours straight – I have a stool that keeps my bum warm for roughly 3-4 hours a day, depending on the type of shoes I’m wearing and how hard of a workout I had the night before. Standing for a full work day would be a Christmas miracle…and my old bones are just not ready to pull that off.  But standing for roughly 25-30 hours a week definitely beats standing for zero – and it really wasn’t that hard of a switch.  Not convinced yet?  Well, here are my top 5 reasons to get out of that seat and on your feet.

1. Burns More Calories

20-50. That’s how many more calories you can burn by standing each hour than by keeping your booty in that stiff office chair you don’t even really like. For example, a 130 lb. woman will burn 78 calories per hour sitting.  But standing?  Well, notch that up another 22 calories – just putting your weight on your legs rather than your butt can burn you 99 calories each hour.  And I realize that may not sound like a lot, but add it up:  even if you stand for just 5 hours per workday, you’ll burn an extra 500-1250 calories per week.  Can you say cheesecake, anyone?

2. More Productive

I don’t know the science behind this, so I can only go off of what I know. And that is that I am way more eager and motivated to get things done while standing than while sitting. Why? Beats me. But if you ask the experts, they will say this surge in motivation stems from an increase in your blood flow, keeping you more alert and helping to mitigate that lethargy you tend to feel when sitting down. Who knew?

3. Makes Your Workouts More Meaningful

Shortly after I made the move to a standing desk, I came across an article online that highlighted the effects sitting had on your workout results. Ready for this bad news? Here’s a snippet of what I read:

“According to a research team from the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center, each time unit of sitting cancels out 8 percent of your gain from the same amount of running. In other words, if you run for an hour in the morning, and then sit for 10 hours during the day, you lose roughly 80 percent of the health benefit from your morning workout. 

People who engage in an hour of moderate-intensity exercise–running is considered vigorous exercise–fare much worse. They lose 16 percent of their workout gain from each hour of sitting.”[1]

Running for 60 minutes to only receive the benefits of a 12 min run? Talk about a downer. The good news, though, is that this research made us aware of how our desk jobs impacted our health. Never before had there been research that specifically recognized how detrimental sitting can be, not only for couch potatoes but for us gym rats as well. The negative effects of hours upon hours of sitting just cannot be negated by short periods of exercise, no matter how hard we go for that hour we’re in spin class. Sucks, doesn’t it?

                                               My home away from home for 5 days a week.

                                              My home away from home for 5 days a week.

4. Overall Health Benefits

As if burning more calories wasn’t reason enough, standing has been linked to other health benefits as well. Here’s just a few to wet your whistle[2]:

  • Reduced Risk of Obesity – in a research study, it was found that consistent, moderate levels of movement throughout the day aided in maintaining weight. Due to calorie loss, metabolic impact, or whatnot, they do not yet know, but the results nonetheless pointed to this correlation.
  • Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes – sitting reduces the effectiveness of your body’s ability to regulate levels of glucose in your bloodstream
  • Reduced Risk of Cancer – the reasoning is still unclear, but it has been shown that sitting influences the development of certain types of cancer, including breast and ovarian.

5. Keeps you from Food Comas

Listen, I don’t know about you, but sitting at my desk after an especially large lunch (and by large I mean anything besides my usual ½ PB sandwich + veggies combo) puts me to sleep. I mean, total yawn fest. I catch myself slowly nodding off and jerking back to reality, which is bad enough in itself but worse when someone else catches me doing it. Not the best for workplace productivity, to say the least. Luckily, standing helps to eradicate that. No longer do I feel the urge to fall asleep while I’m poring over monthly income statements and pricing reports. Instead, being on my legs keeps my circulation going and repels that sense of lethargy that usually comes around 2 or 3pm. Good for the company because it keeps me more productive. Good for me because now my boss won’t think I’m a slacker.

I know that even if I told you that standing throughout your workday will allow you to earn $1 million more in your lifetime, some of you still would not hop on that train. And that’s fine.  You’re in charge of your life and make decisions best for you.  However, for you others out there that are even slightly intrigued, I suggest you give it a shot.  Try it for a month, starting slowly with 2-3 hours of standing per day, and see where it goes from there.  You may not feel the effects right away, but trust me, they’ll come.

If you don’t or aren’t able to even manage that, then at the very least try to get up from that throne of a chair for a few minutes every hour. Every little bit of movement counts, and when we’re talking about your health, it’s something you want to make a priority.

Have any questions about standing desks and my experience with them? Feel free to leave a question in the comments section below or email me at brittandthebenjamins@gmail.com.

 Photo Credit: David Liberadzki

Photo Credit: David Liberadzki

[1] Burfoot, Amby. “How Much Does Sitting Negate Your Workout Benefits?” 10.09.2014. www.runnersworld.com 07.14.2014

[2] Stromberg, Joseph. “Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks”. 10.09.2014. www.smithsonianmag.com. 03.26.2014.