Stand up for your health

Sitting too much isn’t just bad for your waistline. It increases your risk of heart disease and type-II diabetes. It potentially increases your risk of developing prostate, colon and breast cancer. And it can shorten your lifespan.

A brochure from the American Cancer Society from 2010 states that men who are inactive and sit over six hours per day are nearly 50 percent more likely to die over a given period of time than their standing counterparts. These findings put new meaning to the Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley song, when they chant, “Get up, stand up, for your life.”

Without a doubt, if you sit too much, you put yourself at risk for some serious, long-term consequences.

But sitting too much can cause immediate problems as well. Such as neck and back pain. Fortunately, you can get rid of the pain just as quickly as it started by standing more and sitting less.

In fact, standing throughout the day may be as good as running for short periods. And it’s easier on your bones and joints.

Last year, the Boston Globe ran an article about the “anti-sitting movement.” In the article, the reporter quoted a school psychologist from Jamaica Plain (maybe listening to Bob Marley) who said, “When I’m at a conference, I’ll go stand in the back of the room.” Sometimes, she said, she even does squat thrusts against the back wall.

Little tricks like these can make a big difference in your overall health. You can also try working at your desk while standing up. It’s not as crazy as it sounds…

I remember when visiting Donald Rumsfeld (when he served as Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush administration) in his office in the Pentagon there was nowhere for anyone to sit down–including himself. Rumsfeld is a well-known “stander.” At the Pentagon, he used a standing desk. And he certainly kept things moving–for better and for worse– at the Pentagon.

Companies like Ergotron offer sit-stand desks. But they can be expensive. And you don’t really need them to reap the benefits of standing more. Just make sure you get up and stand at least every 20 minutes throughout the day.

For myself, I set up a high “Captain’s” table as my desk. And I use a high-backed “Captain’s” chair. This allows me to sit or stand while working. Plus, it also gives me a more pleasant view since I can see out the windows.

Of course, many who work on their feet all day long welcome the opportunity to sit down once in a while. And standing for prolonged periods can also contribute to health problems, such as varicose veins and stroke (in people with heart disease).

So the best path is to mix things up. When sitting, take standing breaks. And vice versa. (I’ll tell you more about ways to avoid or take care of your back pain, safely and inexpensively, in my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you haven’t become a subscriber yet, you can get started here.)

Hmmm…sounds like the ideal approach, once again, is moderation.