Remember over a decade ago when standup desks became super popular at every tech startup in America? And remember a few years ago when a study verified that sitting at your desk for eight hour days was definitely going to murder you? And when you got standing desk ads during every tv show you watch and every time you’re on Facebook? And when Karen from accounting tweeted that sitting is the new smoking?
And so, like many Americans, fearful of the Sitting Monster That Would Murder Us, we ponied up for fancy standing desks.
Day one was awful, but we knew there would be a transition period as our slumpy bodies got used to actual posture.
Day two was worse, sore from day one. Day three, I couldn’t stand it anymore (see what I did there?) and we invested in those standing pads that chefs use in fancy kitchens, and shoe sole inserts for super cushioning.
Day four was still just the fricken worst. But I was determined to stick with it because I wanted to save my own life and the lives of those around me. And I questioned how I worked in retail as a teen, constantly on my feet for ten hours.
And then it hit me – standing desks don’t involve enough movement for me personally, and my lower back ached constantly, my ankles hurt (I’ve blown them both out in recent years), my lower legs stung, I was just a mess. And was 100% sure I was going to die soon due to my personal inability to use a standing desk.
But maybe the science behind the studies that got everyone worked up were missing an ingredient, and that’s longevity of the studies. Enter the British Journal of Sports Medicine which studied 5,000 people over 13 years. And surprise, surprise, they found no correlation between sitting and diseases that end your life.
But maybe you’re feeling skeptical because you don’t need science to tell you the obvious, that sitting all day will shorten your lifespan.
Perhaps we’ll look to another study that indicates standing for just two hours each day can lead to swelling in the lower limbs, increased discomfort, and most importantly, “a substantial drop in cognitive function,” therefore diminished productivity.
Further, prolonged standing has been proven to increase your chance of heart diseases as blood pools in the legs and increases pressure in the veins. Multiply that by how many hours you work per day, and you have serious problems, especially if you’re over 50.
So what’s the answer?
Die from sitting or die from standing?
All of the studies against standing at a work desk confirm my personal experience, but let’s take a more holistic perspective. First of all, we’re all going to die, whether we sit or stand. A work day wherein you experience no sitting may cause cognitive and physical problems, but a day where you are completely sedentary will also increase your chances of life-threatening diseases.
So the answer is to worry less about your stupid desk, choose one that is comfortable to you, and just do everything in moderation. If you’re like me and you choose a sitting desk, set an alarm to get up and walk around every hour (I mean really, who wants blood clots in your legs!?), challenging yourself to drink an entire glass of water as you walk. Throw in some meditation if you’re feeling ambitious.
You’ll improve your chances of longevity by focusing on your diet and exercise levels, because apparently sitting or standing is definitely going to murder you. So live más, folks.