Standing up for your health….literally

We spend a lot of time sitting at our desks at work. Could standing at our desks help us to be healthier at work? Sophie Knott of the Wales Audit Office gave it a go for a week.

How long do you spend sitting down per day? I sit down A LOT. On the average weekday, I reckon it works out at around 12 hours. Add that to the eight hours I spend lying down asleep, and it makes me feel pretty depressed!

What do I know? I’m not a doctor

Well, it turns out it’s been worrying a few members of the health profession too. A recent study of 50,000 people in Norway found a link between higher levels of sitting and premature death. Even Public Health England are getting involved, co-commissioning a study that recommended that office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work, to try and reduce chronic diseases and ultimately live longer.

Blue Peter – eat your heart out

I decided to give standing up at work a go. I don’t have any real health concerns at the moment, but I’d quite like it to stay that way. Two hours a day seemed more than doable. Of course, I’m not the first person to want to stand up in the workplace and there are a plethora of desk options if you have a spare £300+. I wanted to spend £0. I gathered various cardboard boxes, box files and paper and placed them under my monitor, keyboard and mouse until I had everything at a comfortable height.

The transformation was surprisingly easy:

Sophie Knott's adapted deskThe standing up on the other hand was not so easy. After the first 30 minutes, my back hurt and my legs wanted to sit down. I persevered for an hour then gave myself a well-deserved rest. I did another hour later in the day, enduring a bit more physical resistance and a lot of amusement from colleagues.

The next day, I did two more hours, and the next day, two more. Five days in, I’d clocked up ten hours of standing, my back and legs were fine, my workmates hardly batted an eyelid, and I even had a few considering trying it out themselves.

Six weeks later…

I have to admit that three weeks of annual leave and a couple of days of jet lag put paid to the standing for a while. Also, this was very much an unofficial trial, and a few concerned colleagues have queried whether I’m standing correctly and have everything at the right height.

I agree that I don’t want to unwittingly make things worse for myself, and there is no real way of knowing if I am doing myself any significant good. But science tells us that being sedentary is bad, and I’m enjoying my experience to date. Ok, creating your own sit/stand desk might not be as easy for everyone as grabbing a few boxes, and I am now looking into some official equipment so I can do it properly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the reaction from some of the senior colleagues in my workplace, and I know it wouldn’t be the same everywhere. But I’d like to think that more of us can take our health into our own hands, and vote with our feet.

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