Many studies over recent years have highlighted something that is hopefully quite obvious: lots of sitting is bad for you. Since many Americans have moved into office jobs that require sitting at a desk, the solution to the problem became a craze of utilizing stand-up desks. Too bad, though, that people missed the part where science doesn’t indicate that standing is any better.
It’s understandable why people would be attracted to this solution – if sitting is bad for you, than standing must be better, right? But the fallacy here is that one sedentary behavior is being replaced by another (albeit different) sedentary behavior. Sitting a lot correlates to cardiovascular problems and increased risk of obesity, but standing in place for extended periods of time also has associated risks of developing issues like varicose veins. The problem in all of this comes back not to the position one is working at the desk in, but instead on the fact Americans simply aren’t getting enough fucking movement.
I get it –being more active is hard, thanks to the nature of office jobs. Products like stand-up desks can serve as a quick fix to alleviate the mental strain of knowing you are doing something bad for you, while not really requiring any significant life change. “Here, let me throw money at something that will fix this problem!” It’s akin to diet pills and get-rich quick schemes…. It makes the buyer feel like they are doing something, even if they aren’t.
But the bottom line is really simple: science says being sedentary is bad and the only solution is to get active. Humans weren’t designed to flourish physically and mentally while tethered to a desk, period, whether sitting or standing (or, not to burst your bubble, science says even haphazardly pedaling doesn’t help for those of you saying, “BUT BUT BUT what about the bicycle desks?!”). None of us can control that work life has evolved into a situation where this is the reality for many of us, but that knowledge should motivate you even more to maximize time outside of work doing things that get your blood pumping and adrenaline going.
Office jobs have become excuses for way too many of us. Between commutes and being tied to a desk for upwards of 8 hours a day, it’s all to easy to put off crushing weights at the gym at 5a or pursuing adventures on the weekend and instead get sucked into behaviors that only exacerbate sedentary lifestyles.
Spending money on half-assed measures like stand-up desks ultimately only serves the purpose of being a (really shitty) Band-Aid on a much bigger problem which is: you just. need. to. fucking. MOVE. Full stop. It’s as simple as that. No excuses, you just have to do it. Gimmicks aside, what research does show is that an hour of day of exercise can totally counteract the negative health risks of sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. That’s it. You just have to get off your ass and get your heart rate up for one measly hour.
So, yes, sitting is the new smoking, but the answer isn’t for you to drop a thousand bucks on a stand-up desk and call it a day, the solution is to throw on your running shoes and hit the pavement at lunch or sign up for Apex and train for that endurance event you’ve dreamed of doing.
We all only get one life and for those of us not born trust fund babies (or who just prefer not sleeping in a van down by the river), we’ve gotta work, sometimes at a shitty office job. This means you’ve got to get up every day and make a simple choice: are you going to take an hour today to prioritize your health or not?
While (spoiler alert) making this decision won’t alleviate your Office Space Peter-Gibbons-esque self-loathing about the soul-numbing nature of your office job… it will mean you just eliminated your chances of dying early from sitting too much and you can simultaneously be self-righteously smug as you sit at your desk while your colleague spends the day standing to justify going home and bingeing on Netflix. You win.