Monday, April 11, 2011

Standing - it's good for you!

This weekend, we walked to a neighborhood park so Alice could play like a real baby. I drive past the park every day but we'd never explored it before. We were pleased to find that it's geared towards the littler kids, with a fenced in playground surrounded by a big, green lawn. The only swings are tiny-tot-sized, the play structure is a nice scale for smaller climbers (and their parents!), and there are plenty of toys for playing in the sand. I was also delighted to see that they have some resident Little Tykes Cozy Coupes!

Alice took her first ride in a proper swing, but was only interested in the bigger girl (probably seven or so?) swinging next to her. Jon also took her down the slide but she only wanted to shyly and quietly watch the other kids play. There wasn't anywhere to sit inside the play area, so we parked ourselves under a tree in the grass on a slight hill overlooking the action. Alice was transfixed. She just wanted to stand and watch the big kids. She even practiced standing without support for a few seconds at a time. That involved a lot of wobbling, over-correcting, and sudden sitting. She was horrified when she fell forward and planted her hands in the grass. She had no problem sitting in the grass though, since she was wearing jeans and shoes, but she was definitely not keen on touching it with any naked skin.

Anyway, while Alice is working on learning to stand, I'm learning to stand at work. No, really, I stand up at work now. All day.

I've been seeing a lot of information on how sitting down all day is very detrimental to one's health, but I didn't think I had any alternative. A lot of computer artists here use adjustable desks that can be raised and lowered to standing or sitting positions throughout the day. I asked if I could also use one, but it wasn't a possibility for my space. After the holidays, when I was finally sure that Alice had outgrown the exercise ball, I brought it to the office and swapped it for my fancy desk chair. I figured that the effort needed to balance on the ball had to be an improvement over just plopping in my chair. I'm not the only one who has an exercise ball in my office but nearly everyone who passed by commented or asked me about it. I told someone that it was my alternative to standing, since I couldn't stand at my desk, and they asked me, "why not?" And I thought, "why not, indeed?" So I decided to just make it happen.

My first great idea was to just add a bunch of feet to the riser I was using for my laptop. When I inquired about getting 20 little feet, our office resources guy raised an eyebrow and put the kibosh on that plan. He reminded me that our office was testing out an arm attachment for desks that raised and lowered a computer keyboard and monitor. Our handy man came to install it and we both agreed that it was huge and cumbersome and totally obtrusive. I took him up on his offer to rig up a podium for my monitor and keyboard, and he made me a beauty out of salvaged shelves that match the desk exactly. So here I am, standing up all day. I still have my ball handy and I sit down for quick phone calls or when people stop by to chat. The office ergonomic department gave me a supportive mat to stand on, but it's not nearly as cushy as the ones the cashiers use at our Trader Joe's. Next time I'm there, I'll have to ask where they get theirs! 

Even though I'm definitely not the only one standing in this building, there are still plenty of questions and comments, I'm thinking of making a little fact sheet I can just post on the wall next to me! From what I can read, there are a lot of benefits to standing up at work, instead of spending all day sitting. Here are some convincing quotes from a couple of the recent articles that swayed me:

"Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.”

"In 2009, Katzmarzyk studied the lifestyle habits of more than 17,000 men and women and found that the people who sat for almost the entire day were 54 percent more likely to end up clutching their chests than those who sat for almost none of the time. That's no surprise, of course, except that it didn't matter how much the sitters weighed or how often they exercised. "The evidence that sitting is associated with heart disease is very strong," says Katzmarzyk. "We see it in people who smoke and people who don't. We see it in people who are regular exercisers and those who aren't. Sitting is an independent risk factor."

"Why your desk job is slowly killing you." by Maria Masters - Men's Health Oct. 2010 

I'm hoping to see calorie-burning results soon, but I already feel like I have more energy and am using more energy day-to-day, my knees and back feel stronger, and I am definitely more productive and efficient. I hear that I may be standing in good company with the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway. Alice will be standing soon, too. I hope she knows I'm doing this for her...


  1. She's looking like such a big girl! I love seeing more of personality evolving. The whole watchful shy thing sure sounds a lot like her auntie... just sayin'! :)

    Also that's so awesome about YOUR standing! I'd love to see a picture as I'm having a hard time imagining the set-up. A description posted for passers-by would be so funny.. makes me think of an animal in a zoo!

  2. My chiropractor has been telling me this same thing for months! Sitting down at work for 8 straight hours beats me down every day.

    I'm thinking I may get a ball (building a stand-up work station is not an option in my tiny office), but my chiropractor suggests (at the very least) a little inflatable cushion that you can put on your chair wherever you are... It's like the exercise ball - it requires you to balance and allows you to move your hips around without having to stand.

    So cool you decided to do that! You'll have to keep everyone informed on how your body feels the changes as the months wear on.


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