Our ancestors walked an average of eleven miles per day hunting and gathering. Today, although we have developed technology to make life easier, this, ironically, is also killing us. There is growing evidence that important biological functions virtually shut down when we are idle, and that our ancestral DNA takes over, instructing the body to switch from “hunting” mode to “resting” mode, resulting in a drastically slowed down metabolism and increased fat storage.
“Sitting disease” is a lowering of the body’s metabolism that occurs when we sit for too long at one time. Conversely, just standing raises the body’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) significantly, because our heart has to work harder to keep the body upright. Walking at a slow pace of 1 to 2 mph raises the BMR further still, subsequently our background calorie burn. The Mayo Clinic’s Dr. James Levine – the “father of the treadmill desk” – and author of “Move a Little, Lose a Lot”, estimates this burn rate to be between 100 to 130 calories per hour.
Standing desks and walking desks are a new development aimed at combatting against sitting disease but it’s important to combine the two because there is evidence to suggest that too much standing without movement can have a negative impact, leading to back injuries, foot pain, muscle strain, pressure on spinal discs and can increase the risks of heart stress, varicose veins and carotid artery disease. Standing and walking desks shouldn’t be a replacement for your regular desk, and 2-3 hours at the most is recommended at any one time for walking at a desk. So the best option is to mix things up throughout the day; walk when you can, sit if you need to and stand in between, remembering to stretch out the muscles if you have spent an hour or more walking.
There are many long term benefits to using a standing/walking desk such as improvements in blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, prevention of thrombosis, lower back pain, increased metabolism, focus and productivity as well as moderate weight loss.
Standing desks can be expensive – but you can make your own – here’s how I made mine:
I bought a cheap treadmill – it didn’t need any fancy functions as I only plan on walking, not running. I then bought a Z desk stand for a laptop which has an adjustable height and I used heavy duty plastic ties to attach it to the handles of the treadmill. I adjusted the height of the stand once in situ so that it was correct for my height and allows for good posture. The stand also had a removable side tray that I can use for my external drive – fabulous! Good to go! This has been an invaluable addition to my working life as it means that I can now walk, stand or sit when I am working, depending on how active I have been each day.