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Do a quick google search on "8 hours a day" and you'll find search results that pretty much say that sitting is literally going to kill you. The desk we have at work are adjustable to different heights, and a colleague just got rid of his desk and now stands all day.

Is this a good idea ? What are the potential benefits ? Has anyone on here tried it ?

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7 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As far as I know, people who spend 8 hours stainding still (like shop personnel, assembly-line workers or standing security), have got problems too, mostly with their feet and legs: edemas, etc... I haven't conducted any serious research on it, but this makes sense. And in the beginning standing long will definitely be inconvenient or even painful.

So in my opinion the best thing would be to make standing/sitting shifts, like 2-2-2-2 or what your body will "tell" you.

By the way, if you start standing and abandon breaks/walks (which you are having every N minutes, aren't you?), it might be not good for your eyes and limbs.

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Breaks every N minutes ? Not really... I think I use to have an app that forced me to, but never took it seriously. Recommendations ? –  sjobe Aug 22 '12 at 18:02
    
Unfortunatly, I myself can't establish a strong habit of taking breaks - sometimes I just forget about it. But for me the breaks make sense: eyes and spine get relaxed and mind gets calmer after a 5-minute stroll in a park (or even in the corridor). I think, that first step is realizing that you really need this. –  Steed Aug 24 '12 at 11:28
    
It will be uncomfortable for the first little while, but you'll get used to it quite quickly. I haven't met anyone in security who complained about foot problems. –  Robin Ashe Aug 27 '12 at 18:35
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@RobinAshe, these effects are not instant and develop with age, if you work in standing posture on a daily basis. See i.e. this link: ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/standing/standing_basic.html (and I've seen a lot of middle age sales people with leg problems myself). –  Steed Aug 28 '12 at 7:32
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I've had jobs that require standing all day, so I have had long bouts of standing, with only some short breaks, and for the most part it's fine. The only thing is you have to be careful about the surface you're standing on. A perfectly flat surface, like a hardwood or linoleum floor, will be a killer. You'd definitely want to get an anti-fatigue mat to stand on.

I'd also see about avoiding wearing dress shoes. If they still need to look formal, driving shoes will probably do the trick and give your feet some space.

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Don't get rid of the chair, but add a 16-ounce cup/mug to your desk. Learn to like and drink water.

(Assuming you have an office kitchen or water fountain within walking distance )

When you run out, you'll get up to refill it.
You'll also be up often to the bathroom.
Water is also good for you.

No apps or reminders needed to get you up, just an empty cup or a full bladder.

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That's a recipe for hyponatremia. –  Robin Ashe Aug 28 '12 at 9:11
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Not unless you rather drink water than work. I've done this for quite a while. Usually refill whenever I have to go to the bathroom and end up drinking maybe 3-6 bottles of water (.7 liter bottle) over the 8 hours I spend at work. –  Svish Aug 28 '12 at 10:57
    
haha I actually always have a 32 ounce cup on my desk, have one right next to me right now... I guess 16 would mean getting up more ? –  sjobe Aug 28 '12 at 12:39
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[Warning: Not really an answer to the question, but never the less an alternative...]

I, for one, have given my office chair away!

Or rather... I have replaced it with an exercise ball.

exercize ball from wikipedia

I sit on the ball about half of the day and stand the rest of the day. The advantage of the ball as a chair compared with an ordinary office chair, is basically that you have to use the all the smaller muscles in the back to keep the balance... which is very good for your back and in my case help eliminate the pain I used to have in my lower back... I even bring the ball for nearly all the meetings we have - well, except for those with customers and the top management :-)

EDIT: Another good thing about an exercise ball is that you can use it as... an exercise ball. From time to time when my back hurts whether I standing or sitting on the ball, I use the ball to bend my back "backwards". I simply lie with my back on the ball and hands and feel in the ground for 4-5 minutes... then I'm usually good again...

As for the original question... I don't want to stand up all day or sit down all day. The 50-50 mix is perfect for me.

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Interestingly, while sitting on a ball worked well for me as a kid, I actually experienced more pain when I tried replacing my regular chair with it. I still think it's probably a good idea to try, but worth keeping in mind that sometimes good ideas cause problems anyway. –  Robin Ashe Aug 29 '12 at 23:23
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@RobinAshe You have to start gradually with this... The first day, I used the ball - just 15-20 minuttes - I was sure that it would never work for me. But now it is very nice indeed... whenever I'm tired of standing up, I switch to the ball and vise-versa. –  Tonny Madsen Aug 30 '12 at 7:18
    
That makes sense, rather like the advice for first wearing minimalist shoes. –  Robin Ashe Aug 30 '12 at 12:35
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There is an infogrpahic on medicalbillingandcoding.org that goes thorugh all of the various issues that sitting causes.

Highlights:

  • Increases risk of death by up to 40%
  • Calorie burning drops to 1 per minute
  • Those with sitting jobs are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease

The infographic also has a list of sources, I don't have the time to transcribe them from the image so here's a screen cap:

References

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I get very tired and restless if I try to stand all day. If I got rid of my chair completely, I would be unhappy.

In contrast, I feel awesome if my day is spent switching every hour between a standing desk, sitting desk, and reclining (on a couch with my feet up, preferably). Add frequent two-minute walks for added benefit.

The problem is that we are simply not meant to work at a desk or laptop for eight hours. Period. Even mitigating the problems by standing, sitting, reclining, switching, and taking walks won't get rid of the fundamental problem, which is that we should really just do less computer/desk work.

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There was an anecdote I heard about a rather successful businessman (can't remember his name) who said he tried to get almost all his work done within the first hour. If your boss cares about results more than how you get them, it might be possible to solve that issue. –  Robin Ashe Aug 29 '12 at 23:25
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  • Should you get rid of your office chair? - Not necessarily, especially if it is a good ergonomic chair that is adjusted to your work surface. A good chair gives your back support.
  • Should you get up and move at regular intervals? - Yes, this is the key to keeping the negatives of prolonged sitting to a minimum.
  • Should you add an exercise ball to alternate with your chair? - Maybe a good idea in that it promotes motion. Should you use a ball as your chair exclusively? - Probably not. The back has no support when sitting on a ball. If you don’t use good posture your back can suffer. If your setup allows for you to switch off periodically, using the ball it may be a nice alternative.
  • Should you stand? - Although the standing desk can also make a nice alternative, you would still need to remember to take breaks and do some movement exercises like toe/heel raises, marching etc. Prolonged standing can create lower extremity problems including swelling, varicose veins, pain and arthritis. A good mat can help as @Robin suggests, but stationary standing presents some of the same sedentary problems as motionless sitting.
  • Other Alternatives? - As others have suggested trying to alternate between other positions and taking walking or exercise breaks can help. But as @Dave suggests our bodies are designed to function with movement. Prolonged inactivity is unhealthy.

    Remembering to make the changes can be hard when your concentration is elsewhere. To help in this repect, as @eych suggests, the water trick does work in that you are forced to break your concentration to go to the bathroom. A computer app that reminds you to take a break is good (if you use it :)

    My alternative is to keep the ball and some resistance bands within sight. I bounce on the ball and do some resistance exercises with the bands for my arms, chest and legs. It gets me out of my chair and gets my circulation going.

It may take you a while to get your routine going, but given the downsides of not getting up and moving it is worth the effort.

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