Standing up for increased health

1st September 2014

Who would have thought that standing up could be so good for you.  And I don't mean metaphorically standing up for yourself, I mean literally standing up.  Two feet on the ground, upright posture.  

Given my field of work, I have always always promoted the benefits of moving. Just getting out of your chair and doing a stretch or walking away from your desk for 30 seconds.  I recommend it more from the point of view of maintaining good posture and preventing repetitive overload of a particular muscle group.  However, I have never fully realised the benefits of standing instead of sitting for long periods of time.  Or I should say, the simplicity of how this change can impact you so greatly.  I feel like I have just been given this golden piece of information but I also feel so dumb that I never took this so seriously before.

It’s funny how sometimes the most important thing can actually be so simple.  So simple as standing up.  

What I didn't think about before was the implications that prolonged sitting has on your general health.  Given we are living in a time where we are all on computers for longer and longer this is essential information!  There are many studies now that conclude sitting for prolonged periods leaves you more susceptible to many metabolic diseases including type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, and, actually shortens your life!!!  People who worked in jobs that were sedentary/sitting based jobs had shorter life spans than those who were in active jobs.  The impact of a sedentary lifestyle is huge.

The thing is, I used to think sedentary didn’t apply to the people who went out for a 30 minute walk or run in the morning and then sat all day.  I would have classed them as active.  But, what I am reading in the research now is that this moderate intensity exercise for short periods, does not counteract the effects of sitting all day.  We need to be doing low intensity movement throughout the day. 

So like all good “scientists”……I didn't believe the research until I tried it out on myself.  I am currently standing up at my newhome “workstation”!!  As you can see in the photo above my new workstation is the elevated kitchen bench.  And, according to my previous education I would have thought reaching up to my computer at this height would cause me all sorts of grief with my neck and shoulders because the bench is actually a bit high for me.  But, would you believe, I feel so much less soreness in my neck and shoulders than when I am sitting at my ergonomically sound desk!  

Not only that, my lower back/core constantly feels so much stronger.  I measured my heart rate sitting at my desk and it was 62 beats per minute.  Standing here, it is 80.  If you are into calorie counting and calorie burning, imagine how much more energy I am using when standing rather than sitting.  When I am thinking, rather than slouch in my chair, I tend to walk around the room.  And, somehow, I seem to be able to work better.  I can concentrate better on what I am doing.

Amy Cuddy’s research in power postures shows that “power postures” or expansive and open postures lead to lower cortisol and higher testosterone than “non-power postures” or closed postures.  This hormone profile is indicative of being disease resistant.  So maybe by standing we are also changing hormone levels and improving our immune systems!!!

So, I say let’s all stand up.  If you are in a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, ask for a sit - stand desk.  It is certainly next on my shopping list!!