I ditched my office chair a few months ago and have never felt healthier or more productive. I discovered the “standing desk” while reviewing a treadmill office desk, and a few months of sitting less than 90-minutes a day convinced me that chairs are a black hole of wasted time and energy. I realized that chairs—those expensive little ass-magnets—encourage a dangerous sedentary lifestyle and, perhaps worse, allow meetings to drone on for hours.
A rash of scientific studies have proven that walking desks boost employee productivity. And Silicon Valley’s most brilliant CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, were ardent supporters of the “walking meeting.” Humans do not actually need to sit much; our six-pack-brandishing tribal counterparts cover 15 to 20 miles a day on average.
Since transitioning to a standing desk, the muscle cramps and achy back that plagued me have almost completely vanished. I do rest my legs sporadically throughout the day to stretch, but I am otherwise on my feet pounding away at my computer for 10+ hours a day.
For your office to return to humanity’s upright origins, you’ll need a few tools and tricks:
I am a huge fan of treadmill desks—workstations that place a normal desk atop a slow-moving treadmill. I burn 300-600 more calories a day than I would by sitting, and I improve my overall fitness. In one academic study, walking desks were shown to improve doctors’ ability to diagnose CT scans (in other words, they boost brain power and productivity). Another study found that walking desks improve employer satisfaction by 10 percent.
There are a few problems with outfitting an entire office with treadmill desks. For one, they’re pricey—about $1,400 for a quality machine. They also take up a ton of room and might screw with an office layout.
Not every office will have the space or money for treadmill desks. Moreover, road warriors can’t pack a treadmill on a plane. That’s where Connect-A-Desk—a Baby Bjorn-type harness for a laptop—comes in. While a little awkward to hold a laptop nestled against my belly, it is the best completely portable solution I’ve found for walking while working. The best part is that I can get some fresh air while remaining productive (with my laptop tethered to the Internet through my cellphone).
These delightful Japanese meditation pillows are great from when you want to rest your keister. Most importantly, there’s no back, so there’s no incentive to stay sedentary for very long. And they’re fashionably minimalist, which is nice for an open-office layout.
Creating a culture of fitness doesn’t happen overnight. Pedometers and the cottage industry of smartphone-friendly wearable trackers are great for encouraging a more activity lifestyle. None of the health trackers has a software solution to track more than 90 minutes of sitting a day, but it’s sufficient to get feedback necessary to start thinking about walking all the time.
Most popular health trackers—from the Fitbit to the Basis watch—can track extended periods of sitting. I try to have at least 8 active hours a day, and Basis alerts me to get up and walk every 45 minutes. On average, I walk between 6-10 hours a day; that translates into about 7-15 miles.
Walking meetings are a great way to get outside, get the blood flowing, and discourage unnecessarily long conversations (aka wasted time). It’s also nearly impossible to hold a walking meeting for a large group—the worst offenders of protracted meetings.
It is possible to sit less than 90 minutes a day. In fact, it should be the norm. So, do you and your office a favor. Ditch the chairs.