From Texas A&M University come tidings of new experiments aimed at getting school kids and office workers up off their posteriors. But why? Reporter Nicole Morten has the answers. Standing up to work strengthens the spine, burns 20% more calories, and improves alertness. For many reasons, it is unwise to be sedentary.
What these scholars suggest involves the choice to alternate between standing and sitting on high stools with a foot rung. The pioneering students and teachers of South Wood Valley Elementary School first tried the standing desk option, and researchers from the university are investigating the results of importing the method into adult workplaces.
Dr. Mark Benden of Texas A&M explains that this is not a weight loss program, but could lead to the avoidance of weight gain. Office workers tend to steadily gain one to three pounds per year, which can add up over the course of a career. The simple switch to mostly standing could provide enough of an edge to keep those extra pounds off. The idea is to circumvent an unhealthy situation by not letting it develop in the first place. Now, the Centers for Disease Control might fund a grant to further prove the theory and explore the possibilities for widespread implementation.
The best plan is to alternate between sitting and standing, and even walking around. One of the drawbacks of refusing the sedentary life is that in many workplaces, the shoes that go with business wardrobes are not the shoes in which a person would want to stand for long periods of time.
The standing desk is a concept that many individuals have discovered on their own, building jerry-rigged constructions to hold their books, papers, and computers. The idea has been around for a long time. In England, more than a hundred years ago, novelist Virginia Woolf was teased by her sister Vanessa Bell about sitting lazily in an armchair to write, while the energetic painters in the household stood at their easels. Woolf adopted the standing habit, at least for a while, and a furniture company now offers a very handsome wooden model of standup desk named for the British author.
Ernest Hemingway and Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens were other novelists who worked on their feet. Thomas Wolfe, who was six-and-a-half feet tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. The poet John Dos Passos worked standing up, and so did many historical political figures including Winston Churchill, Henry Clay, and Thomas Jefferson.
A more recent writer, George Pendle, has looked into the subject thoroughly, and reminds us that Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. worked on legal documents standing up in order to keep them crisply concise. Pendle also quotes and elaborates the words of one of the world’s most famous writers, Friedrich Nietzsche:
‘The sedentary life (das sitzfleisch — literally ‘sitting meat’) is the very sin against the Holy Spirit. Only thoughts reached by walking have value.’ Nietzsche also believed that the cramping of the intestines caused by sitting causes constipation that shows up in the quality of a writer’s work.
The corporate headquarters of Google, Facebook, and Forbes are reportedly on board with the standing desk concept, and the various models come with all kinds of appurtenances and features, as shown in a photo gallery on this page. But a person doesn’t need to spend a fortune. Do-it-yourselfer John Moir describes his simple stand-up desk:
A friend helped me attach a one-inch-thick piece of white shelving to a wall in my writing studio. It measures eighteen by forty-eight inches — plenty of room to hold my work. A trip to the lumber store plus an hour’s effort and my new desk was ready to go… All in all, I stand for about 40 percent of my writing work…
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Effects of Stand-up Desks Proving to Fight Obesity Locally,” KBTX.com, 05/13/13
Source: “To Sit, to Stand, to Write,” Cabinet, 2009
Source: “Get Up, Stand Up for Your Writing,” PW.org, 09/08
Image by Ramsey Beyer.