Sitting at our desks can kill us … so I put my money where my ass is and takes the challenge.
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Inactivity bad. Alcohol bad. Sugar bad. Gluten bad. White flour bad. Sheesh, what happened to the PURE JOY of sitting in a lawn chair enjoying a bag of Doritos?
After fighting chubby thighs most of my life and despising too many FAT JEANS, these days, I TRY TO do bad “in moderation.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was catching up on my stack of New Yorkers in the bathtub, when
I read the article “The Walking Alive” by Susan Orlean, who does all of her work from a treadmill desk.
The article was based on a study done by James Levine at the Mayo Clinic that said:
“Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health, whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”
And for administrative-type folks like me, who don’t have a playground of a casino floor of employees and guests to interact with, this is a real challenge. These were the key facts from the article and his study:
1. “Sitting a lot, even if you are in good shape, is bad.”
2. “If you go to the gym three days a week, you may feel fit, but you won’t be metabolically healthy.”
3. “Sitting puts muscles into a sort of hibernation, cutting off their electrical activity and shutting down the production of lipoprotein lipase, the enzyme that breaks down fat molecules in the blood.”
4. “Your metabolic rate drops to about one calorie a minute — just slightly higher than if you were dead.”
5. “Sitting for more than two hours causes the presence of good cholesterol to drop and in time, insulin effectiveness plummets. This can lead to cardiovascular problems, certain kinds of cancer, depression, deep-vein thrombosis and type-2 diabetes.”
6. “According to a 2006 study by an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, men who sit for six hours or more daily have an over-all death rate twenty percent higher than men who sit for three hours or less.”
7. “For women, sitting is especially unhealthy: women who sit more than six hours a day die at a rate that’s forty percent higher than for women who move more.”
Well, that totally sucks. I feel like at 40-something-something, I feel better than ever.
Going back to always trying to manage the amount of “bad” in my life, the following Monday I looked around the Raving office to find how I could make a “stand up desk” — and grabbed boxes of Steve and Dennis’ unsold books (gosh, I’m so glad there were some left!!).
Putting aside the best office chair in the world that I got from Gary Platt, I proudly announce to Amy Ponce, our office manager, what I am doing.
Day One – minute 10 I wander around the office missing my chair. I go into Amy Ponce’s office again and say, “Hey, I’ve made it for 10 minutes.” She rolls her eyes and asks if I’m going to do this all day. I’m not sure if she means announce my accomplishment and bug her, or actually not sit.
Day One – hour 2 My lower back is a bit sore. Oh, I forgot, it is important not to stand still; MOVEMENT is key … so stretching helps and a little dancing. I turn on Marlena Shaw Radio on Pandora and I forget about my back.
Day One – hour 5 My feet are starting to hurt a little, so I change into my cross training shoes from my high arch flip flops. I’m wondering where the point of diminishing returns is. When will my butt and legs get stronger?
Day One – hour 8 Woohoo! Made it to 5 PM. I actually feel like I have been more productive today.
Day Two My lower back gets stiff pretty early in the day, but standing up typing doesn’t feel weird. I make it through 7 out of my 9 hours standing.
Day Three Through Thirty Out of the nine hours I’m here each day, I sit for about 2 hours — for lunch and for breaks here and there. I have a high stool when I want to sit, as moving the book boxes is not easy. I feel more energized and more productive; it is starting to feel “natural.”
I’m getting varied support here in the office. My co-worker, Ms. Hergenrother, returns from vacation during Week Two, sees my standing desk and tells me that I’m “being obsessive trying to burn calories,” that I’m “already healthy.” I get so pissed off at her and try to explain to her that it isn’t about burning extra calories, it is about the overall health benefits. I don’t think she believes me. Dennis asks me every day of the first week how I “like the standing.” No one has joined me, but no one is making fun of me.
Whilst I’m standing, I do more research. I mean, can you stand too much? Overall, the benefits of standing or treadmilling at your desk far outweigh any risks of sitting on your arse all day. At Mark’s Daily Apple he cites, “The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety caution against prolonged STATIC standing, which can increase the chances of ‘sore feet, swelling of the legs, varicose veins, general muscular fatigue, lower back pain, and stiffness.'” He suggests that the problem isn’t standing, really; it’s standing and never moving, which probably isn’t all that different from sitting and never moving (the symptoms of both are almost identical).
If it is physically uncomfortable — it’s certainly easy to say “this is stupid” and to give up quickly. My point is “why not try?”
If you are not healthy or active to begin with, I think there is some common sense involved, including know your own body, wear sensible shoes, stretch and work up to it, and ask your doctor if you are concerned.
Got issues? I have a form of arthritis called ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS (AS), which at different times of my life has prohibited me from sitting or walking comfortably. Luckily, at this stage of remission, although my hips bug me, exercising makes me feel so much better. As it affects the spine, posture and stretching is crucial, which sitting at my desk doesn’t really allow.
On Fridays, I work at home and have a computer station set up on my pub table in the
kitchen. I have removed my bar stool, so the height works perfectly. However, my assistant Ethel can’t reach on her tippy-toes.
I don’t have the added incentive like many folks that work in a resort, casino or with the public do. Knowing that the more time you spend on the floor, interacting with guests and your employees, teaching by example, is as critical as the health factor.
So, my friends, consider doing bad in moderation. Let me know if you try standing or just groovin’ a bit more and post your comments. Honestly, just like a workout routine, after you get through the first couple of weeks, it starts to become habit and feel good.
PS — Remember, you can always try this for a few hours at a time and work up to it. The key is movement, so standing still isn’t good for you either.
PPS — I had to move to another desk yesterday since the A/C turned off in my office. My lower back hurt more from sitting down — I realized I was doing that bad posture thing again. I couldn’t wait to start standing again.