Is your chair trying to kill you? Fighting back is as easy as standing up
Ernest Hemingway did it, the guards at Buckingham Palace do it and the Statue of Liberty was made for it. I’m talking, of course, about standing.
If I weren’t a reformed betting man, I’d wager an asinine amount of money that you’re resting on your keister right now. According to the most horrifying infographic I’ve ever read in my life, the average American sits 9.3 hours a day. And according to The New York Times, NPR, TIME, The Atlantic, Inc.com, The Huffington Post, Fox News, CBS News, USA Today, The Telegraph, Men’s Health and a number of other reputable news sources, that needs to stop.
But how can something as seemingly safe as sitting at a desk accelerate your date with death? Referring to the infographic once again: First, the neurons in your legs go to sleep like an untouched iPad. Next, your fat processing enzymes take a 90% dip, causing you to burn just one calorie per minute. To put that stat in perspective, it would take about 4.5 hours of sitting to burn off one Snickers bar. Right around lunch, your artery-friendly HDL cholesterol levels drop 20%. And by the time you fall asleep, your insulin effectiveness will have fallen 24%, awakening a greater risk of developing diabetes.
Your fat processing enzymes take a 90% dip, causing you to burn just one calorie per minute. To put that stat in perspective, it would take about 4.5 hours of sitting to burn off one Snickers bar.
So what do all of these percentages mean, as illustrated in the infographic? For one thing, staying seated for six or more hours a day increases your risk of death by 40%, compared to standing individuals. Also, Sitting in a cubicle all week makes you twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease than the barista who brews your latté.
But your office isn’t the Grim Reaper’s only booby trap. The same principle applies to your living room. If you sit in front of the TV for 3 hours a day, you become 64% more likely to end up in a hospital bed, watching your heart monitor flatline as your heart fails.
This is all pretty startling stuff, but the not-so-fun fact that really lit a fire under my hindquarters was the claim that exercise is irrelevant. Granted, someone who works out regularly and sits during the workday will probably outlive their lethargic colleagues, but they are not immune to the cholesterol crashes and synapse lapses of all sitters.
The only way to avoid a desk induced death, other than keeping your letter opener in a safe place, is to roll your chair aside and join me in the standing movement. For those of you who find infomercial testimonials more persuasive than quantitative statistics, allow me to describe how getting upright has drastically improved my life.
The most noticeable benefit of switching to a standing desk is the inability to fall asleep after lunch. When I used to occupy a wheelie chair during the workday I occasionally, and ironically, doused myself with coffee by dozing off while holding my mug. It was like I was living in one of those awful 5 Hour Energy commercials. Since raising my desk, the only items in danger of a caffeine tsunami are chotchkies. Also, I don’t get sleepy unless I’m called into someone’s office for a meeting. But that usually has nothing to do with sitting. And standing has inadvertently cured my self-diagnosed insomnia.
The only way to avoid a desk induced death, other than keeping your letter opener in a safe place, is to roll your chair aside and join me in the standing movement.
After fighting fatigue on your feet all day, you’ll crash like your pillow was soaked in chloroform come sundown.
The next best thing about a standing desk is the ease of assembly. My first inception required nothing more than my standard cubicle and a stack of books. I just set my laptop on top of the hardcover tower and eureka, my elbows were resting at the recommended 90 degree angles.
But after my computer narrowly survived an accidental Jenga moment, I opted for a sturdier foundation. For my second attempt, I utilized an upside down recycling bin. Although the bin was less likely to topple, it left me no surface area for things like a cell phone or my midday yogurt. My third, and current, adjustment was a gift from the greatest furniture store on Earth, IKEA. I found the space and stability I needed in the form of glossy-red side table from the Lack collection. For as little as, $7.99 and you can transform your workspace into a standing haven (some assembly required).
Lastly, I can’t forget to mention what it does for your calves, back and backside. Like any physical improvement, plastic surgery excluded, you have to endure some time and pain before enjoying the results. After a year of avoiding the embrace of a desk chair, my lower back is sturdier than a stop sign, my calves double as nutcrackers and I could pick up the crumbs with my butt cheeks.
The hardest part is getting past the initial discomfort. I recommend starting off with a 50/50 split, alternating between thirty minutes up and thirty minutes down. As time goes on, you can spend more time on your toes. Most people retreat to their seat after the first wave of back and calf aches, but just keep in mind how great your behind is going to look if you keep it up.
Whether it’s the frightening statistics or my personal success story, I hope this article makes you think twice about the amount of time you spend on your badonkadonk. If not, fine, you have every right to die slow. If so, congratulations, you’re on your way to a longer life, an unlimited supply of energy and a booty that will put your office’s HR department on high alert.