Things that sound too good to be true are often indeed not true. How could a few minutes of standing or walking around every hour have a big impact on your health? I go for an hour long run twice a week thinking that would undo the damage caused by too much sitting, but apparently that is not enough. It seems that short bursts of activity throughout the day are actually better for you than one long workout. This is good news for those of us stuck at a desk all day, or those who have no time to exercise before or after work, because all you need is a few minutes an hour to improve your health; and all it takes is standing up.
Sitting for any amount of time will reduce the blood flow to your legs, and may heighten your risk of developing diabetes, obesity or even depression. The main culprit in this story is glucose, which is otherwise known as sugar. When we eat, our body turns that food into glucose, which our pancreas then neutralizes by producing insulin. Because your blood transports the glucose throughout your body, too much of it can cause heart disease and diabetes. The more physically active you are, though, the faster your blood glucose level will return to normal after eating. A study in Australia with seven hundred participants showed that substituting two hours of sitting for two hours of standing will get you positive results. A second study at Harvard Medical School showed that those two hours don’t even need to be consecutive; you can spread them out throughout the day.
Going one step further, a researcher in Lester suggests that standing up for three hours a day, five days a week will have the same effect on your health as running ten marathons a year. Just by doing this you could burn an extra 30,000 calories per year, which is the equivalent of 8 lbs. of fat. We don’t all have the time and energy to go running 260 miles per year, though, and many of us don’t even have a chance to stand for three hours each day, so what if you could work in just five minutes per hour?
Standing for five minutes an hour at work every day will not get you near the three hours described above, but it is a start that will already do your body much good. A study by the Johnson and Johnson Human Performance Institute from 2016 shows you can get many of the same benefits by getting up, and preferably walking around, for just five minutes an hour. As long as you don’t end up walking to the vending machine, it will even help dull your hunger pangs.
However, getting up for a few minutes every hour sounds easier said than done. When I started paying attention to how many times I was getting up throughout the day, it was not nearly as many times as I should have. Half of the time I got so engrossed with work that I did not come of my chair for close to three hours. Sometimes it was the twitch in the back that finally got my attention, more often than not it was just the fact that it was lunchtime. If you have the right chair to sit in you might just get a little too comfortable, or maybe your boss does not like to see his employees standing up and walking around for no apparent reason, but there are ways to remind yourself to get up and be active, whether it is from your home office in the basement, or your corner office in a high rise.
My personal favorite is the Apple Watch, the gadget I never knew I needed or wanted until I got one for Christmas unsolicited. It’s probably one of my favorite gifts ever, and one of the reasons is its Activity Center. Besides tracking your workouts and telling you to relax by offering some breathing exercises, it can also remind you to stand. The aptly called Stand Reminder annoyed me so much at first that I immediately turned it off. It will buzz your watch every time you have been sitting for the first fifty minutes of an hour. It actually gets distracting when you are in the middle of work, but that is the whole point of it. It made me make a conscious effort to get up and stretch for a few minutes. In my case, those five minutes never negatively impacted my productivity. As a matter of fact, once I sat back down and took up where I had left off, I realized I was looking at my work with a fresh pair of eyes.
To prevent the development of DVT (or Deep Vein Thrombosis), pregnant women are told to get up and walk around throughout the day, as are people who are getting on a plane for long flights. An eight-hour flight to Europe is about the same amount of time you spent at work every day, so why is standing up not common practice in the office?
If your boss thinks you will become less productive if you stand up every hour, you might consider a sit-to-stand desk. Research has shown that working while standing up increases productivity, and many famous figures throughout history, from Winston Churchill to Ernest Hemingway, have employed them with very productive results (to be covered in a future post). Here at NLNovalink we can outfit each desk with the Linak Wellness Switch. This control panel will not only allow you to move your desk up and down, but it can also become your personal wellness coach. It can remind you when it is time to get up and raise your desk, and it will keep track of the amount of time you spent standing up. At the end of the day it can give you a breakdown of the day’s activities and the amount of calories burned.
Maybe getting up for five minutes and changing our health for the better is one good thing that might be true after all. At least I have stood up every hour while writing this post, and while it will not take you an hour to read it, just get up when you finish and take a stroll; it might just add two years to your life. This is the beginning of our journey to better health, posture and office sports; we hope you join us for the rest of the trip. And tell us, what do you do to remind yourself to get up and stand?