sitting at desk

Normally I ignore studies that make it into the mainstream media. They usually don’t amount to anything more than “if you eat junk food all day and don’t exercise, you are more likely to gain weight and suffer health complications.”

But I was looking at some research presented in a recent article on Forbes.com and had to think about it. They caught my attention by saying that if you spend a lot of time sitting, you increase your chances of death from cardiac and metabolic diseases, “even if you work out or exercise.”

Apparently they are saying that even if you’re an avid cyclist, ultra-marathoner, or Ironman triathlete, if you sit down at work, you’re in trouble!

In the Forbes article, it said the study adjusted for variables such as light and hard exercise, yet still showed that your chance of dying increased the more you sit at your job. It makes some sense, because most anyone who isn’t a top professional athlete will spend more hours at work each week than they will training.

Just think – approximately 40 hours sitting at work each week compared to 10 hours exercising. No matter the health benefits of exercise, the fact is, you’re still doing an awful lot of sitting! It’s kind of like how you can’t out train a bad diet (i.e. the calories burned exercising for two hours won’t make up for the calories consumed by eating pizza for two hours).

That’s not the worst part, though. What really bugs me is that if sitting is so bad (compared to standing and walking), is cycling a good way to make up for it? On the bike, we spend lots of time sitting on our butts! We even use chamois cream to allow us to sit comfortably, longer!

So, while I have no plans to give up cycling (or sitting down) based on this research, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to stand up and walk around more often!

Therefore, I’ll share my tips and ideas for standing more often:

standing at work desk

5 Ways To Stand More Often, At Work

1. Install a standing desk.

If possible, install a tall, standing desk in your office. These are adjustable-height desks that allow you to work while standing. (A popular choice on Amazon.com is the Safco Adjustable-Height Workstation, which would also be great for a home office.)

Another option, if you can’t replace your desk, is to get a standing desk riser. This sits on top of your desk and allows you to instantly switch from a seated desk to a standing desk. The VariDesk is a well-known option – I have one of their pro workstations. The VariDesk is nice, but I’d suggest a FlexiSpot – their design works much better.

2. Talk to coworkers face-to-face.

Get up and walk over to coworkers’ desks to talk to them, rather than e-mail or call.

Try to schedule “walking meetings” when possible.

3. Take stretching breaks.

Stand up and stretch between tasks. It’s a good way to re-energize yourself for the next item on your to-do list.

4. Use a stability ball instead of a chair.

If you can’t install a stand-up desk, the next best thing is to sit on a stability ball rather than a chair. This way, you at least engage your core muscles a little bit more when sitting.

5. Stand up for phone calls.

If you’re not collecting information over the phone and inputting it directly into your computer, stand up or pace back and forth during phone calls.

kids having play time with parents

5 Ways To Stand More Often, At Home

1. Keep important items out-of-reach.

Keep important stuff out-of-reach when you’re sitting down. For example, leave drinks and snacks in the kitchen so that you have to get up off the recliner for each sip.

2. Spend more time outside.

If you spend more time outside, you’re less likely to sit down since there’s no couch. You might be more comfortable standing compared to sitting on the ground or on a log.

3. Have kids.

Good luck finding time to sit or lie down when you have kids to take care of!

4. Cook your own meals.

If you’re cooking, you won’t be sitting down! You’ll be standing and scurrying back and forth through the kitchen. (Bonus: You’ll probably eat healthier, too.)

5. Drink lots of water.

Not only does this keep you hydrated, but it will have you walking to and from the bathroom constantly!

standing on climb

5 Ways To Stand More Often, While Riding Your Bike

1. Sprint for popular landmarks.

You have to stand up for a true sprint, so make the sprint for the town line sign a part of every ride. Even better, sprint for at least a few local landmarks each and every ride.

2. Set an alarm.

Set an alarm on your cyclocomputer for every 5 minutes; stand for 10-30 seconds each time it sounds.

3. Use an uncomfortable saddle.

Install a very uncomfortable saddle. You won’t want to sit down at all!

4. Seek out steep climbs.

Find a route with steep climbs that force you to stand the whole time. (You could also install a cassette with a 21 tooth large cog if you’re hardcore.)

Cheering fans on the hillside are optional.

5. Quit carrying a cell phone and spare tube.

If you leave home with no cell phone or spare tube, you’re bound to get a flat tire. Your only option will be to hoist the bike over your shoulder and walk home! 😉

Show References

This article was originally published on June 13, 2012. It was updated and republished on July 2, 2018.

Photo credits: Victor1558 | Plutor | eyeliam | Adam Baker

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Levi Bloom is an experienced endurance athlete who has been training and competing for over 17 years. A former Cat 1 road and mountain bike racer (professional class on the regional circuit), he is now a cycling coach (USA Cycling Level 3 Certified) and sports nutrition coach (Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified).

2 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences here on your blog.

  2. Try working in a bike shop like me. I’m standing all day!

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