My butt hurts. Seriously. I’ve been sitting in my ergonomically designed desk chair for the past eight hours (with only short bio breaks) writing.
I’m not a doctor, but I know this can’t be good for my back, or backside. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting an adjustable desk (designed for sitting and standing) and even considered a treadmill desk, where the user walks at a steady pace while working.
To date, I’ve acted on neither of these options, but earlier this week, a study came across my desk that has lit a fire under my… well, you know.
In the first study of its kind, the International Journal of Environmental and Public Health reveals that standing desks can significantly boost cognitive skills.
The researchers considered the consequences of going from sitting in a chair to standing at a desk and found significant improvements in the following skills that anyone could arguably be better at:
• Problem solving
• Fact memorization
• Working memory
Apparently, the increase in blood flow caused by standing seems to get the brain up and running. And it’s not just our cognitive and executive functioning that’s impacted but our longevity as well.
A 2012 report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys revealed that 50 to 70 percent of Americans spend six hours or more a day sitting. The same report stated that if those same couch-potato citizens reduced their sitting by 50 percent (to less than three hours a day), life expectancy would be increased by 2 years.
So how can we get off our butts and boost our brainpower? Here are 10 suggestions:
1. Try the 20-8-2 pattern.
Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, recommends sitting for 20 minutes, standing for eight minutes, and then moving around for two minutes — every half hour — while at work.
2. Use a timer.
To keep pace with the 20-8-2 pattern, try setting an alarm on your cell phone or using a time app to keep track. I personally like Focus Time, a free app that lets me designate different amounts of time for the different activities of sitting, standing and moving around.
3. Gab upright.
Get into the habit of standing, rather than sitting, while talking on the phone.
4. Take the stairs.
If you work in a building where there are stairs — and you’re not on the 78th floor — skip the elevator, and get in some exercise instead.
5. Commit to 15.
Calendar in a 15-minute window in your lunch hour that is dedicated to walking.
6. Tidy up.
One way to stand up is to straighten up. Dust your bookshelves, organize your cabinets, and wash out the coffee cups in the break room. Any kind of cleaning that gets you up and out of your chair will do.
7. Merge working out and watching TV.
I’ll admit it: One of my guilty pleasures is binge-watching television shows. I went through the entire first season of Amazon’s Hand of God scripted series in a weekend. The only problem was that I was sitting on the coach for most of it. So instead of going all coach potato when you watch TV, try walking in place, lifting weights, doing mat Pilates, etc.
8. Park farther away.
If you go to visit an office or other place outside of your home, try parking as far away from the entrance as reasonably possible.
9. Walk and talk.
The next time you have a meeting, rather than sitting in a pair of chairs facing each other, suggest taking a walk side by side.
10. Buy an adjustable desk.
Professor Hedge recommends looking for one that lets you make the adjustment from sitting to standing easily and quickly. There are a ton of types on the marketplace including The tabletop Varidesk, which gives you a quick hit when you want some height, and The Human Solution sit-stand desk, among others.
I’d love to stay and chat, but my alarm just went off, and it’s time for my 2-minute movement session. I think I’ll walk briskly over to the Nespresso machine and make myself a cappuccino. But don’t worry, I’ll be sure and stand while I drink it.