Stand up, sit down, rinse, repeat

Sitting down in front of a computer all day is bad for your health, and yet that’s exactly what most writers – indeed, most office workers of all stripes – do these days. The latest craze is the “standing” desk (or, for some, the treadmill desk), to keep upright as you complete your work. But is standing up really any better?

Treadmill desk in heels? No thanks! ("Talia is famous" image by Flickr user  sharyn morrow)
Treadmill desk in heels? No thanks! (“Talia is famous” image by Flickr user sharyn morrow)

To test the theory by taking it to its logical extreme, writer Dan Kois decided to stand up for an entire month. And, of course, write about it for New York Magazine.

The results are, of course, hilarious. You can’t really stand up while you’re watching a movie in a theater, and standing up at a restaurant is impossible unless you’re eating at a food court in a mall or grabbing some appetizers at a bar. He observes that after just a day spent standing, his Dr. Scholls insoles are flatter than pancakes, and his family is confused as to why he can’t sit down at the dinner table with them.

One interesting observation, however, is buried on page three of the article. Doctors point out that standing all day is equally bad for you. Think about it: most people want cushy office jobs where they can sit down all day, as opposed to manufacturing, retail or health care jobs where you’re on your feet all day, everyday. Why? Because standing up all the time hurts! As someone who’s had to take retail jobs to supplement her income, I can attest to the fact that a) no one likes having to stand up all day long, and b) you will want a good pair of shoes, decent insoles, and one of those rubber mats to stand on instead of hard concrete (or tile, or linoleum).

The key takeaway, then, is that we all need to mix it up. Workers who are on their feet all day need sitting breaks to let their muscles relax, and workers who are sitting at desks all day need standing-up and/or walking breaks in order to engage those dormant muscles.

Which is worse? Who cares? The point is that the old Greek who warned “moderation in all things” was right. So no, I won’t be buying a standing desk, but I will be trying to insert more standing up and walking around into my daily routine – even if it’s just wandering into the kitchen to ponder whether I want a cup of coffee or some iced tea.

A friend of mine from the UK tells me he has a decent walk to work each day, which keeps him fit, and it’s inspired me to pretend that I have to walk to work, too – even though my office is right next door to my bedroom. So instead of simply rolling out of bed and heading to my desk in my PJs, I’ll be tossing on some athletic gear and taking a quick power-walk up the street to my neighborhood taco shack and back.

I may or may not return with tacos.

What do you do to break up your sitting – or standing – routine?