Standing up at your desk reduces sitting, but not by the amount experts recommend.

Standing up at your desk reduces sitting, but not by the amount experts recommend.

Our sedentary lifestyles are increasingly being blamed for a range of problems. Stand-up and treadmill desks might seem to be the answer, but is it worth shelling out for one?

Sitting is the new smoking – blamed for increasing the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as diabetes and obesity. Health guidelines suggest we should spend 150 minutes a week in moderate exercise, but many of us sit down for more than half the working day – email means we don’t even have to get up to talk to anyone.

So it is not surprising that there is a gap in the market.

Stand-up, sit-stand and treadmill desks are all the rage. Google and Microsoft have allegedly bought stacks of treadmill desks – modified treadmill bases attached to work surfaces. The manufacturer of TrekDesk says that a treadmill-desk set at a walking speed of 1.5km an hour will burn 2.6 calories a minute. Such energy expenditure does not come cheap: desks cost upwards of £1,000. But do they make people more active and healthier, or are they this year’s corporate gimmick?

Is sitting down bad for my health?

The research so far is inconclusive. The benefits may be more myth than reality. A systematic review by Cochrane researchers looked at 26 studies with 2,174 people. They found that sit-stand desks reduced sitting by between 30 minutes and two hours a day. While this sounds impressive, the researchers say the studies mostly did not deliver the up-to-four-hours of standing that experts recommend.

Standing desks were also not found to have much benefit in weight reduction – if an average-sized man and woman spent half of their eight-hour working day standing, they would spend an additional 20 kilocalories and 12 kilocalories each.

This, point out the researchers, is not enough to prevent obesity or type 2 diabetes. Prolonged standing may also be difficult for people with low back pain.

Treadmill work stations, though, were found to reduce sitting by nearly half an hour in the Cochrane review and another systematic review found that they particularly benefited obese people, improving their levels of good cholesterol and reducing their waist circumferences.

So much for the physical effects, but what about productivity and brainpower?

Exercise is traditionally thought to improve the ability to think – but generally only after you have stopped doing it. A study in Plos One of 76 people randomly assigned to a treadmill (moving at 1.5mph) or a sitting desk found that the sedentary group did better at recalling lists of words and working out mental maths problems. It was easier to concentrate and remember from a sitting position. Unsurprisingly, it was also easier to type faster without making mistakes.

So, while the benefits of standing desks may be overstated, the risks of sitting are not. You can take walking breaks throughout the day and use the stairs, whatever desk you have.

Exercise is a key contributor to health and happiness.

Exercise is a key contributor to health and happiness.

Beyond triggering that runner’s high, it’s associated with a higher quality of life, improved health, and a better mood. But missing a few gym sessions doesn’t mean staying active has to fall by the wayside.
Sneaking cardio into daily life can save time and improve fitness, sometimes on par with the benefits of a scheduled sweat session. And more time getting moving in our daily lives means less time sitting, which can lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and early death. While intense exercise is good for us, it doesn’t completely erase the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, so making an effort to get moving throughout the day can have some serious long-term benefits.

So how much cardio is enough, and what are some ways to fit it in?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, plus two days per week of strength training.
Whether it’s 30 continuous minutes of activity or three 10-minute sessions, Cheltenham Personal Trainers have got 13 simple ways to get more active for even the busiest person, whether at home, work, or play. Just keep in mind calories burned varies depending on age, build, gender, and weight.
AT THE OFFICE
1. Be a stair master: But consider taking them one at a time, not two.Researchers found that while the rate of caloric expenditure is higher when taking two at a time, the burn over an entire flight is more when taking one at a time. In one study, participants climbed a 15-meter stairway five times a day with an average of 302 calories burned per week using one step and 266 calories per week using the double step.
2. Walk and talk: Hold walking meetings with co-workers. While moderate walking uses almost two-and-a-half times the energy of sitting in a meeting, mobile meetings can also strengthen work relationships, improve health, and boost creativity.
3. Please stand up: Think of your ring tone as an alarm to get up out of the chair. Throw in a few bodyweight exercises before sitting back down (and check out this list for some great ideas).
4. Hydrate often: Getting lots of H2O means more trips to the bathroom (drinking water might also help ramp up metabolism). Pick a bathroom on a different floor, and visit it often.
ON THE GO
5. No more lazy layovers: Stuck in the airport because of a delayed flight? Don’t just sit there. Do terminal laps — but skip the moving sidewalks!
6. Ditch the drive: Bike or walk to work instead. In addition to adding stress, commuting via public transportation or car can rack up sitting time and lead to weight gain. Just make sure to follow some basic safety precautions and rules of the road!
CHORES GALORE
7. Clean machine: Chores — they have to get done, so why not make them into a workout? Vacuuming can burn about 75 calories per half-hour, while washing the car uses more than double that.
8. Made in the shade: While running errands, park in the shadiest spot, not the closest, to log more steps and keep the car cool.
9. Take a lap (or three!): Browsing the perimeter of a grocery store can do more than just promote healthy food choices. Take a couple of laps to compare prices and rack up some steps! Pushing a cart around the grocery store uses 105 to 155 calories in a half-hour. Bonus points for lugging home the groceries.
WEEKEND FUN
10. Hit the dance floor: Shake it to your favorite beat. Just 30 minutes — or about seven or eight songs — of fast dancing can use up 180 to 266 calories.
11. Take an active date: Challenge your date to a game of tennis. In addition to burning 210 to 311 calories in 30 minutes, tennis may improve bone health, reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, and lower body fat. Looking for more options to give dates a fitness twist? We’ve got plenty of ideas for any season.
12. “Shopping is my cardio”: Words of wisdom from Carrie Bradshaw. Except that a two-hour shopping expedition uses almost 300 calories, or 75 per half-hour. Enough said.
13. Game night: So-called “exergames” — such as on the Kinect or Wii Fit Plus— have been shown to increase energy expenditure up to three times more than just sitting. But while these games are better than parking on the couch, energy burn can vary quite a bit depending on the game.
THE TAKEAWAY
Exercise doesn’t have to be done at the gym, on a track, or even in workout clothes. Little bits of exercise throughout the day can add up — just get creative! Pair some of these sneaky cardio boosters with unexpected strength training to vary the routine and meet the weekly recommendations for exercise.