SITTING IS BAD.
If you're new to standing desks (and possibly living in a cave with all the media attention over the last couple years), this may be a revelation to you. Most of us sit too much, and we know it. We may not know all the reasons why, though, so here are the top 9:
1. We sit too much, and IT WILL KILL YOU SOONER. Apologies for the dramatic caps, but it's true. The average person sits more than 8 hours a day (even if you don't sit that long at the office, you also sit when you get home, don't you?). There are dozens of studies out there showing how detrimental this is, just like this one.
How much of an increased risk is it? Most of the evidence shows a FORTY PERCENT INCREASE. Okay, sorry again, but this is HUGE (I can't stop, it is). Wait, you say, you can't be saying I am forty percent likely to die this year because I sit all day at my desk - I have been doing that for years!
That's not what the studies are saying - they are saying you are forty percent more likely to die than somebody (all other factors being the same) who isn't a desk jockey. Or conversely, you are forty percent LESS likely to die (mostly from the heart or cancer-related diseases) if you STOP sitting all day.
For argument's sake, let's say you had a 14% chance of dying this year. Start standing, and you reduce that to 10%. I don't know about you, but it sounds like a pretty easy way to reduce the risk!
2. Sitting slows down your metabolism. In as little as 60 minutes of sitting, your body shuts down the enzymes in your body that produce HDL (the cholesterol) and regulate your blood sugar. Ever wonder why so many people are getting diabetes? We now know that this epidemic is related to excessive sitting and prolonged inactivity. And we also know now that this can be remedied by standing (there are several studies that have been completed and are currently being conducted to provide evidence of this).
3. Sitting is worse for your back than standing. Why? It makes your hamstrings tense and flattens the normal back curvature, contorting the spine and increasing back strain.
4. Sitting creates an unnatural hip angle. Ever notice the angle of your hip when you are sitting? Even if you are sitting straight, the angle of your hip to your torso is about 90 degrees. Sitting for extended periods in this position is NOT natural, and it causes hamstring and spine tension. If you can open up the angle of your hip, the pelvic tension is averted.
That is why more people are using industrial or standing stools with their standing desks; they are able to give their legs a break, but still maintain a greater than 90-degree hip angle to reduce back stress.
5. Exercise will NOT counteract the evils of sitting. You may already have heard this one - the media has been repeating this one ever since the studies came out. All those people who hit the gym for an hour or two EVERY day who thought it would balance out their sedentary sitting habits? Wrong. These exercises may improve fitness, but it doesn't counteract the negative effects of extensive sitting. Bad news for gym rats, runners, P-90X peeps, and CrossFit kids. You should know that even a 60-minute exercise can do less in reversing the adverse effects of prolonged sitting to your health.
6. You need to get out of the chair often. Remember the 60-minute metabolism slowdown? You can fight back by changing things up. A short standing and walking break will kickstart your metabolism again and restart your body. Using your muscles will help stimulate blood flow and remove toxins from your body.
7. There is no ideal ergonomic chair. This is a bit confusing, partly because of the marketing and 'expert' opinions of people that want to sell you an $800 chair. Doesn't that $800 ergonomic chair mean you can sit all day? No. It may put less stress on your back than a normal chair, but it is still a chair, and it keeps you sedentary. I'm not talking about some of the standing stools out there. If you're in a chair all day, ANY CHAIR, it is still bad.
8. Sitting makes you fat. Did we really need to say this? Well, some people try to dispute it, but it is now near irrefutable (here's a link to one study). "Standers" burn 50 more calories an hour than "sitters". That translates into about 8 pounds of fat a year (when most people add a pound or two every year). Want to trim that waistline? Become a stander.
9. Even if all that sitting doesn't kill you (see #1), it could cause you to become disabled far earlier in life than normal. Here's a study that shows more on that. Whether it's from muscle, skeletal, coronary, metabolic, or other issues, you could be disabled far earlier as a sitter. Want to live a healthier life as you get older? Become a stander.
Is Sitting Completely Evil?
No! There is a reason I have a sit AND stand desk. It's good to take breaks from standing too. We were meant to MOVE, to change positions. And sometimes there are even things that we do better sitting. Sitting does provide a more stable platform for detailed work. And it does provide some musculoskeletal system resistance change.
Get an adjustable standing desk, and you can have the best of both sitting and standing!