How can I make a desk job healthy?
Desk jockeys, your attention please: if you work at a computer, you might want to stand up while you read this. Because sitting down all day is killing you. Men who regularly sit for more than six hours a day are 20% more likely to die over a given period, compared to those who sit for just three. Now consider that the average man spends 9.3 hours a day sitting down – far outweighing the 7.7 hours he spends asleep.
If you have a desk job, you’re twice as likely to contract cardiovascular disease than people with standing jobs.You’re also more likely to develop colon cancer and obesity. Your risk of diabetes increases by a staggering 112%, according to one study. All because your default position is to park it. So when the opportunity arose to test a standing desk, I jumped (out of my seat) at the chance.
(Related: 8 Ways To Make Light Of Weigthloss At Work)
After a quick spot of Googling, I plump for an Ergotron WorkFit-A, partly because it sounds cool but mainly because of its versatility. A sort of metallic crane arm which attaches to the back of my desk, it has a fixture to attach my monitor and a platform for my keyboard, which allows me to move the whole assembly up and down at will. It costs about the same as an ergonomic office chair (about £300) and is straightforward to assemble (or so the guy from facilities tells me). It looks a bit like Sheldon’s “Mobile Virtual Presence Device” fromThe Big Bang Theory(or Johnny Five for older readers).
(Related: 10 Second Tips For All-Day Weight Loss At Your Desk)
Rising up out of my office chair in one fluid, mechanically assisted motion, I feel like Neo in The Matrix: suddenly unplugged. I am The One – well, the only one in the room standing tall amid a sea of hunched backs. I feel a tad self-conscious at first, a sensation not eased by the constant stream of curious passers-by. What I don’t feel is the usual lower-back ache, which I spend my evenings foam-rolling out on my front-room floor.
Other benefits are immediately apparent. I find I’m more focused on the task at hand, if only because every time I log onto Facebook or the Mail Online, I’m aware that everyone else can see what I’m doing.
(Related: 5 Simple Ways To Un-Desk Your Posture)
Self-consciousness aside, standing is remarkably comfortable. It’s not ideal for tasks which require intense concentration, such as writing or editing. (I’m sitting as I type this.) But for sorting through my emails, reading documents and answering phone calls – the bulk of most office jobs – I definitely prefer it. Plus my desk is by far the coolest in the office.
Seated, my heart rate hovers around 60bpm (excepting a spike of 84 during an awkward conversation about deadlines). Standing, it’s at least 10bpm higher. Every minute I stay standing I burn 40% more calories than I do on my backside. I use up around 350 calories in 2.5 hours; over a year that would see me shed 10lb. And as my body fat slowly disappears, so my risk of heart disease also begins to fall. So rise up, I say. This is worth a revolution.
(Related: Are Desk Jobs Actually Killing Us)
When seatedGood cholesterol drops 20% after 2 hours, rate of calories burned falls to about 1 per minute and lipase, an enzyme that processes fat, drops 90%.
When standingYou burn 40% more calories, your body breaks down more fat and cholesterol and your risk of colon cancer is significantly reduced.
(Related: 5 Reasons To Invest In A Standing Desk)
Experiment on Yourself
Ergotron Workfit-A, £300, ergotron.com
A crane arm lets you set the work station to your height, or sit back down if you want to stay under the radar.
Wilkhahn Stitz Stool, £TBC,wilkhahn.com
Less a chair, more a leaning post resting on a Bosu ball. This unstable stool will keep you flexing your core all day.
Office fitness stand, £39, officefitness.co.uk
A go-go-gadget set of legs for your laptop, this lets you work standing up without refitting the entire office.
From left: Ergotron workfit-A, Wilkhahn Stitz stool, Office fitness stand.
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