Here at HRE, we’ve written numerous times on the potential health hazards of prolonged sitting at work. Dan Kois, an editor at Slate magazine, sums it up a bit jarringly in the opening lines of his New York magazine article documenting his effort to stand continuously (even when reading bedtime stories to his kids) throughout the day during the entire month of April:
Are you sitting down? Nice knowin’ ya! If you sit down more than 11 hours a day, one study suggests, you’re 40 percent more likely to die in the next three years than I am. I’m standing up. I’ve been standing up all day. I’ll be standing up all month, in fact, without a break. I expect that at the end of that month I’ll be sore but triumphant, glowing with smug enlightenment.
As you might guess, Kois’ adventure concludes not with smug enlightenment but painfully sore calves, an aching back and a renewed appreciation for the sheer comfort that a chair brings. However, he’s also five pounds lighter, with stronger legs, greater stamina and, to top it off, he ends up being more productive during his stand-a-thon than in his previous, chair-borne incarnation.
Kois acknowledges, however, that what he did goes against the advice from experts on such matters, who warn that too much standing can be just as hazardous as too much sitting. Indeed, he notes, people who have no choice but to stand all day — such as retail employees and waitresses — frequently suffer from ailments such as varicose veins and lower-back pain. Ideally, the experts tell Kois, employees — the ones lucky enough to be able to choose whether to sit or stand during the day — will alternate being in a chair with standing while working and taking frequent breaks to move around. They also stress the importance of using good posture when standing, making use of sit-stand desks when possible and using shoes that provide proper foot support.
And, I should also add, remaining considerate of those who choose to continue making full-time use of their comfy chairs in the workplace. Consider Kois’ reference to that eternal font of wisdom, The Simpsons:
Sitting, the great equalizer,” Mr. Burns memorably told Homer Simpson. “From the lowliest peasant to the mightiest pharaoh, who doesn’t enjoy a good sit?”