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NorthSide Reaction

Lessons on resolutions from my “standing desk”

Standing desks gained popularity last year, mostly thanks to several recent reports and studies about the health risks of sitting at a computer all day long. The research details how sitting can contribute to obesity, increase risk for diabetes and heart disease and increase a person’s risk for heart attack by 54 percent. Additionally, one study found that exercising before or after work does not counteract the ill-effects of sitting uninterrupted for long stretches of time.

Being someone who works at a computer about nine hours a day, I took these findings to heart, and took action. Two weeks ago I assembled a do-it-yourself “standing desk” of my own design (I modified a small shelf from Target and voila — standing desk). I was proud to start the New Year diligently standing at my work station and made it a resolution not to sit unless absolutely necessary.

Earlier this week, my feet were aching and I began to wonder about potential drawbacks in my plan. Is standing actually healthier than sitting, considering all the additional stress being put on your legs? 

Thinking back to a Well Community report on varicose veins, Dr. Rusalina Muntean-Mincu, an internal medicine physician at Swedish Covenant Hospital, explained that both prolonged sitting and standing can be detrimental to healthy circulation. 

Then I came across this report in Time Magazine which explores both the benefits and risks of standing and sitting throughout the day. The article points out — as any restaurant server can attest — that standing is significantly more tiring than sitting and can lead to atherosclerosis. Yikes. The report concludes that sitting at your desk with good posture, and taking breaks to walk around every 20 minutes, is the best solution. 

Realizing that my healthy endeavor may not be as healthy as I thought originally burst my resolution bubble. I was disappointed that the two weeks of soreness I had endured were for nothing (if not causing more harm than good) and that my goal for the New Year was a bust just two days in. But then I put things in perspective:

First, my goal at its core really wasn’t to stand all day, but rather to be healthier overall by living healthier at work. There are many ways to accomplish this, and adjusting my original plan (I will be switching off standing and sitting throughout the day) is not a set back; it is progress. Second, January 1 is an arbitrary day and resolutions are meant to help you change for the better, not add stress when things go differently than planned. And third, there is still value in the standing desk set-up. Having the option to move and change positions is a great way to break up the day and a constant reminder to keep my posture and ergonomics in mind.

So in the end, in my efforts to adjust my health by standing all day, I learned to adjust my plans and my thinking. Hopefully I can use the lessons from this experience and apply them to "real" life challenges I will no doubt face throughout the year.

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