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/Anna Macwilliam What I learned from my standing desk experiment

Studies have linked excessive sitting with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and even premature death. Why is this? The NHS says that prolonged sitting is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.

The average time an adult in the UK spends sitting is between 7 and 10 hours per day. This includes working, watching TV, using a computer, reading and travelling by car, bus or train. 

One of the largest pieces of research to date included almost 800,000 people and it found that the people who sit for the longest time had a:

No Sitting

  • 112% increase in risk of diabetes
  • 147% increase in cardiovascular events
  • 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
  • 49% increase in death from any cause

The Government issued new recommendations in 2011 on minimising sitting. The Start Active, Stay Active report recommends breaking up long periods of sitting with shorter bouts of activity. The jury is still out on how long we should sit for, but, some countries have suggested reducing the time they spend sitting to 3-4 hours a day.

I’ve been reading about the benefits of standing desks for a while because, like most people who spend their days working at a desk, I suffer from bouts of stiffness in my neck and back as a result of spending too long staring at my computer screen. So I did some research and thought that it would be worth giving a standing desk a try. As well as the health benefits, there are also suggestions that you are more creative when you’re standing.

Did you know that both Dickens and Hemmingway used standing desks to write?

In the interest of living Bray Leino’s values I went for an astute solution for my first attempt, using bits and pieces I found around the office; a bookshelf, a stool and an upturned bin. 

It’s wasn't a perfect set up by any means, the shelf wasn't big enough to fit both my keyboard and my mouse, but the monitor and keyboard were at the right height for me.

I am only 5’1” so my desk wouldn’t suit my taller colleagues; I guess that means that if you’re hot-desking standing desks need to be adjustable, and the more expensive solutions generally are.

My first test of the day was to review my emails and check in with Twitter, I soon realised that there wasn’t enough room for the mouse on the same shelf as the keyboard. My next test was an hour long conference call where I was taking minutes. I didn’t think I had room to write these standing up but I thought I’d try and I did just about manage but my shelf was too narrow so I wouldn’t recommend it. Before I knew it four hours had gone by and my feet were really starting to ache. Needless to say I was happy to sit down again. I must confess that I didn’t stand for the rest of the day; it’s all too easy to revert to doing what you’ve always done.

So I learnt a few things from my experiment:

  • You need enough space for your mouse, keyboard and a notepad
  • It needs to be the right height for you, and ideally it should be adjustable if it is going to suit more than one person
  • You can’t make the change all at once, our bodies are so used to sitting that it takes time to adapt to standing all day
  • You need a gel mat to avoid tired and achy feet and legs

Luckily for me there’s a spare desk next to mine so I am planning to set it up so that I can switch between a sitting and a standing desk. Now to find some more bits and pieces for my standing desk… 

If you're interested in improving the resilience of your team, take a look at our Resilience Programme or contact us for more information.

Anna Macwilliam

Anna Macwilliam, Digital Project Manager, Bray Leino Learning

Copyright © 2017 Bray Leino Learning


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As part of her wellbeing strategy, line managers still need help with absence management, which is one of the key focuses around our recent talk of mindfulness, given that an estimated 70 million working days lost to sickness absence due to mental illness in 2014.

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