If the latest study that prolonged standing is harmful has you miffed, then relax —because there are solutions to avoiding the “sitting disease.”
Excess sitting is also known as the “new smoking.”
Two Solutions to the Sitting Disease, aka the “New Smoking”
There is no study that says that the amount of walking that would typically be incurred from using a treadmill desk can in any way be detrimental to one’s cardiovascular health.
If you can’t afford or otherwise gain access to a treadmill desk, you can commit to walking whenever you’re watching TV: walking towards and backwards several feet while viewing the screen.
You can also step side to side while watching the screen.
Any stepping or mini-walking that you can do while watching TV will count towards counteracting the harmful effects of excessive sitting you do during other times of the day.
Another thing you can do is walk about the TV room during boring parts of a TV show. This will allow you more space to walk in a linear path.
I do this during cheesy corny scenes involving “The Doctor” on “Star Trek: Voyager.”
Some of these scenes are just way over the top. I always know I’ll get a few minutes of good back-and-forth walking done during these boring segments.
Study Says Prolonged Standing Can Be Harmful
The study comes from Curtin University in Australia. The good news is that the harmful effects are not related to the cardiovascular system.
Instead, they relate to overall discomfort. However, anyone who has stood in one spot for extended periods would have already known this.
During a college art class the professor had us all standing in a hallway in one spot while he lectured.
It quickly grew uncomfortable, and I thought, “I’d rather be walking on a treadmill at four mph than standing still here like this.” Finally I sat on the floor.
The study found that two hours of standing while working caused the discomfort.
But keep in mind that an overall feeling of body discomfort is highly preferable to the harmful effects of the sitting disease, which include an increased risk of type II diabetes, coronary artery disease, heart failure and buildup of visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs).
The Curtin University (Australia) study involved 20 adults who found that after standing for two hours, they were quite uncomfortable.
Again, you certainly already knew this, especially if you’ve ever worked as a cashier at a retail store.
I’m betting that cashiers, who are boxed into a very limited space for extended periods, feel much more uncomfortable after two hours than do restaurant servers who rarely stand still in one spot.
In addition to physical discomfort, the study (published in Ergonomics) unveiled a reduced mental state including hindered reaction time, though creative problem solving actually improved.
Overall, though, replacing as much of your excessive sitting time with standing time will benefit your health, even if the inertia of standing in one spot makes your legs and low back uncomfortable.
A solid exercise program will help counteract issues with the low back.
Fight the Sitting Disease
There’s no such thing as the “standing disease.” The discomfort of prolonged standing does not warrant this moniker.
If a standing workstation gets you off your can for a few hours a day, you’re trading the disease risks of prolonged sitting for the discomfort risks of prolonged standing.
I’ve been using a treadmill desk for computer work for many years and strongly vouch for this approach. However, I also rarely sit when watching TV.
A lot of pacing, stepping or mini-walking while viewing TV requires a comfortable pair of shoes — ideally shoes designed for walking. However, a soft pair of booties can also be used for shorter time periods.
And there’s no rule that says you can’t sprinkle in some high knees, karate kicks or aerobics class moves. Squeeze in some chores while you’re at it, like watering the plants.
Practicing yoga while watching TV is also a great way to reduce sitting or standing-still time.
If you’re standing in one spot during a sequence of yoga moves, this is NOT the same as standing still at a workstation!
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.