To stand or sit at work?

Marketplace Contributor Jun 29, 2012

To stand or sit at work?

Marketplace Contributor Jun 29, 2012

Tess Vigeland: So about a week ago, I became one of those people. I stand — all day. At least when I’m at work. Why?

I read one too many articles about how if you sit all day… YOU WILL DIE!!! OK, overdramatizing a little. But I’m one of several who stand around the Marketplace newsroom. Stand at our desks, I mean. And we are not alone.

Here’s reporter Karen Burkett.

Karen Burkett: So I’m just going to tell you a story from my office today, The Miami Herald. Yes, The Miami Herald houses radio studios. We produce NPR stories here.

Anyway, I work in a room full of journalists who, for much of the day, give their complete attention to their keyboards and computer screens. Not too much gets this crowd to stand up or to even walk around. Except for the Cuban coffee. Maru makes it in the afternoons.

So anyway, there’s this woman in the newsroom. Her name is Deb, Deb Acosta. She fights some nasty Miami traffic to make it to work everyday.

Burkett: Do you have any back problems?

Deb Acosta: No back problems.

Burkett: Do you have any breathing problems?

Acosta: No.

She’s in her 20s, thin, energetic, smiley — looks pretty healthy to me.

Burkett: Do you smoke?

Acosta: No.

Burkett: Do you work out?

Acosta: No.

Since the beginning of the year, every time I look up, she’s been right there in my direct line of vision. Standing. See, Deb created a standing desk.

Burkett: What are you doing?

Acosta: I’m working.

Burkett: Why are you standing?

Acosta: It makes me feel better.

Burkett: What? When did you start doing this?

Acosta: I started doing this at the beginning of the year, right after vacation.

Burkett: You stand all day?

Acosta: Except when I’m driving into work and when I’m having lunch.

Now Deb didn’t buy an actual standing desk. Yes, they sell them online and at stores like Ikea. She reconfigured her desk to make it ergonomically correct. It’s makeshift; she used a couple of cardboard boxes, some thick hardcover books and filing shelves.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed her new posture.

Acosta: A lot of other people have been like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been standing. Do you stand everyday? What’s going on?” Some other people are like, “Are you leaving? Where are you going?”

Deb got to me. Somewhere between hearing a talk show doctor say, “If I could tell people to do just one thing to improve their health, it would be stand,” and my own personal push to be consistent about going to the gym again, because let’s face it…

Burkett’s daughter babbling

…my 2-year-old Celia thinks tag is just the best game ever, I started to stand.

I did the research. I called Dr. Alpa Patel. She’s an epidemiologist.

Alpa Patel: Our studies suggested that if you sit more than six hours a day compared to sitting less than three hours a day, you will die prematurely.

Die prematurely? The study Dr. Patel is talking about is the one she wrote for The American Cancer Society. It says women who sat for more than six hours a day were 37 percent more likely to die prematurely than women who sat for three hours. For men, the rate was 18 percent.

Patel: Well, when we think about technology, it used to be that you had to actually get up and go to a co-worker’s desk. But now you can instant message them, you can pick up the phone, you can send them an e-mail. You don’t have to actually be active, you actually can go and sit in your office for the entire day, and other than for a bathroom break, you don’t really have to get up.

Burkett: Is there a conclusion that standing is better for you?

Patel: What we do know is that even taking short breaks from that sitting time, as little as two to five minutes an hour can have health benefits. So the bottom line is get up and stand.

As it turns out, employees in Silicon Valley, at companies like Facebook and Citrix, they’ve been doing this a while. They pushed for standing desks. There are 3,000 employees at Facebook, and about 350 standing desks at the offices. Employers have begun to push wellness programs. In the long run, those companies know they’re reducing health insurance costs.


Sit v. Stand at Work

More officer workers are choosing to stand instead of sit at work. The trend may mean better focus and even a longer life.

Storified by · Mon, Jul 02 2012 15:03:48

To stand or sit at work?More officer workers are choosing to stand instead of sit at work. The trend may mean better focus and even a longer life.
In response to our story this weekend on Marketplace Money, listeners send in photos of their standing desks.
@tessvigeland My DIY standing desk, quickly converts to sitting. Nestlerode
@tessvigeland #Scoutmob #standingdesk Lintel
@tessvigeland Had a DIY standing desk, then bought a desk topper (still in pic) then moved to bike seat. More movement!
@tessvigeland and @marketplaceAPM been standing for years check out and a photo of my space: Andrick
@tessvigeland My DIY standing desk. 1 yr anniversary tomorrow. Gaylord
@tessvigeland Here’s my treadmill desk. $70 on Craigslist, some scrap wood, and a few hours of labor. Love it! Hudson
@tessvigeland My home office standing desk Mayer
Did you know Winston Churchill was an early adopter of the standing desk? cc @tessvigelandMarketplace
Winston Churchill At His Standing DeskNicWest2007
@MarketplaceAPM @tessvigeland Pretty sure they weren’t "invented" in his time. Da Vinci, Franklin, Jefferson… Reubendale
@MarketplaceAPM @tessvigeland Hemingway, too!Ileanna Portillo
@tessvigeland @kbmiami I’ll say it again: Donald Rumsfeld believed everyone should work at a stand-up desk.Team Off-Ramp

In The Miami Herald newsroom, Deb, Ari, Hannah, Jared, me — it’s five of us who are now standing. We’re all doing it for our different reasons, but it’s supposed to improve energy, weight loss, good posture, even your breathing.

One of my other co-workers, Marco, he raised a concern.

Marco: For example, my dad was so worried about varicose veins, ’cause being a surgeon, he would stand for hours, operating.

True, but maybe that’s the reason you should take sitting breaks.

Acosta: I definitely feel more energized. The fact that I’m standing there, if I get distracted by some silly YouTube video, I kind of notice it more easily. Like, oh wait a second, I’m standing here, I need to get work done.

Oh, more focused employees for the employer. Are you listening, CEOs? But for me, it’s a small change to make at the workplace for my good health.

From 1 Herald Plaza in Miami, I’m Karen Burkett for Marketplace.

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