After almost a year of living through a pandemic — working from home and having nowhere to go — I realized that I’ve never sat around more in my life.
I tracked my sitting habits for a week, and the results were more shocking than I predicted. On average, I spent around 12 hours a day sitting in a chair, on the couch, or at my dining-room table.
Before the pandemic, I was super active. It was easy for me to get 10,000 steps in a day because I was always on the go and enjoyed long lunch-break walks or multitasking phone calls. All of those habits went away this year.
Aside from taking my dog out for walks during the day and running the occasional errand, I was mostly spending my waking hours sitting down.
According to Phung D. Tran, an American College of Sports Medicine-certified exercise physiologist, long bouts of sitting can cause more deposits of fats in the body and increase the risk of coronary diseases,
, obesity, and depression.
“Standing, however, helps you burn more calories, improves glucose metabolism and muscle contractions to improve blood circulation, and helps you reduce cardiovascular risks,” she said.
With that advice in mind, I challenged myself to stand for at least three hours every day for a week.
Here’s how it affected my overall health:
I burned more calories when I was standing
It takes more energy to stand than it does to sit.
Jen Glantz for Insider
One of the main reasons I wanted to practice standing more was so that I could feel healthier after being so sedentary this past year.
Even though there weren’t a ton of places I could walk to (because of the pandemic), I realized I could just walk and stand around my tiny apartment and still find some benefits.
“In comparison, when a person is sitting, they are only burning 60 to 130 calories per hour,” she added. “When you’re on your feet, you’re moving. Whether you feel it or not, you have activated your muscles, and that expels energy resulting in burned calories.”
I put my laptop on my dresser to create a standing work-from-home experience. I took phone calls standing up and walking around my bedroom. I even watched an episode of TV while standing in my living room.
The body aches that popped up this year stopped hurting as much
A few months into the pandemic I started to notice that my body was aching and hurting more than it ever has before.
I wasn’t doing any tough physical exercises and I began to wonder if my body was feeling this way because of all the sitting and looking down at screens I was doing.
According to Alice Holland, doctor of physical therapy for Stride Strong, that’s likely what was happening.
“Sitting puts the most pressure on your lumbar discs. This paired with the sheer amount and duration of sitting often produces undue strain on the structures of the low back,” she said. “The sitter is at risk for bulging discs that have very long-ranging effects of pain and disability.”
She continued, “Prolonged sitting also introduces external variables that affect the body — suddenly, height of chair, depth of chair, posture on the chair, workstation ergonomics now play a part in the sitter’s comfort, posture, and long-term health.”
When I started standing for three hours a day, I felt less back pain, my neck didn’t hurt as much, and I noticed less pressure in my joints.
“Generally, standing introduces a healthier posture than in sitting,” Holland added. “Standing also brings about more movement and blood flow to the body — all very healthy and beneficial to the body.”
I had more energy as the week went on
At first, I really didn’t like this challenge because it was hard to remember to stand up, and it wasn’t as comfortable as slouching down in a chair.
At the beginning of the week, I felt drained by the end of the day. But by day three, I noticed a big shift in my energy levels.
“With this responsiveness, you can remain more engaged in your muscles, more aligned in your joints, and maintain a feeling of greater energy,” she said.
I enjoyed all the benefits, but I probably won’t continue standing for a full 3 hours a day
Standing too much can have similar negative effects as sitting too much.
Jen Glantz for Insider
After doing this challenge, I felt better and started to shift away from my bad sitting habits.
By the end of the week, it felt natural to watch a TV show standing or spend an hour answering emails without sitting in my desk chair.
I hope I keep this habit up, but moving forward, I won’t be so strict about getting to three hours every day.
“It’s not great to stand the entire day either,” physical therapist Karena Wu said. “Standing too long creates too much general joint compression. You need to have breaks and sit to give the body a break.”
She suggested balancing every hour of standing with 10 minutes of sitting and vice versa to make sure everything is in moderation.
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