by | Apr 9, 2014 | 34 comments

By now, you’ve may have heard about the dangers of sitting too much.  Standing desks are becoming more and more popular, and there is growing recognition that our sedentary lifestyles may be contributing to the decline in our general health.

However, I didn’t realize the enormity of the sitting issue until a few months ago.   I started researching the benefits of standing out of personal curiosity when I began working at home.  I had previously been used to sitting in front of a computer for up to 16-hour days, and I wanted to try to change that.  In my quest to make my new work environment as healthy as possible, I had fashioned my own standing desk out of my kitchen counter and a random kitchen box.

standing desk(you can see it in the upper right of this Instagram … somehow I lost the actual photo)

Around this time, my father-in-law sent an article from the Washington Post (which I found online here).  As a side note, Gary sends Kevin and I packages of awesome and relevant torn-out articles a few times per month.  We really look forward to those packages, but rarely thank him, so thanks a lot, Gary!  washington post article on sitting

Anyway, the Post article cited many dangers of sitting too often.  I’ve chosen my top 10 (in no order) to share with you.

top 10 dangers of sitting The Lyons Share

Sitting for extended periods of time makes you more prone to:

  1. Heart damage (people with the most sedentary time recorded are more than twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with the least sedentary time recorded!)
  2. Muscles burning less fat (you can burn up to 310 extra calories per day by standing, according to this article)
  3. Overproductive pancreas (leading to diabetes and several other diseases)
  4. Higher risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancer (potentially due to increased insulin or the lack of exercise-induced antioxidant boosts)
  5. Quicker muscle degeneration (including weaker abs, swayback, tight hips and hip flexors, and weaker glutes … all of which are terrible for runners!)
  6. Bad circulation in the legs (leading to varicose veins)
  7. Weaker bones
  8. Slower brain function
  9. Strained neck, sore shoulders, and back pain
  10. Death (those who watched the most TV in one study had a 61% greater risk of dying than those who watched less than 1 hour per day … and yes, of course I realize that there are many, many other factors correlated to TV watching that likely had a greater impact on the risk of death than the actual TV-watching itself, but this is still a terrifying statistic!)

Unfortunately for those of us that think we get a “free pass” for being such dedicated exercisers, the detriment of sitting for extended periods of time impacts even those that exercise regularly.  This article calls us “active couch potatoes,” and says that we still succumb to the metabolic changes that inactivity brings, even if we’re exercising for short periods of time each day.  (The article also explains some of the biological mechanisms through which this happens, if you’re curious).

Since the time of my kitchen counter desk, my awesome husband paid attention to what I was doing (either that or got annoyed by me leaving that box on the kitchen counter) and got me a really cool standing desk contraption … it sets on top of any surface and adjusts to whatever height you choose.  I have it on my desk, and I alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.  (It’s important to shift your weight or pace around a bit while standing; otherwise you risk the same blood pooling as you would with sitting!)standing desk set up

I even sometimes bring it up on my rooftop.  Yes, things could get a WHOLE lot worse than trying to build a business you are passionate about … on the roof in Dallas spring weather with iced coffee, seaweed snacks, and a view of your home-grown “garden.”  And yes, I do appreciate this every day! standing desk on roof

For those of you whose work environment wouldn’t support a standing desk, here are a few suggestions:

  • Grease the groove: In this post, I talk about standing every time you get on the phone.  If you could only make this one change, your overall health would improve dramatically!  Walk the hallways, head outside to take the call, or just stand at your cubicle.
  • Set an alarm: Every hour, try to walk around for 5 minutes.  If you work at home, do 20 push-ups or 30 jumping jacks.  At the very least, just stand up for 30 seconds.
  • Drink a lot of water:  This will prevent you from even having to set an alarm, as you’ll be walking to the restroom frequently!  Double bonus – hydration and movement!  (Here’s my water drinking app from the iTunes store if you need extra reminders!)
  • Go for a walk instead of watching TV when you get home: I know, this one is asking a lot.  But even if you get it done a few times per week, you’ll benefit tremendously!

One last tidbit on sitting … a neat info graphic on standing that I found here:


**Last thing … did you check out my Featured Runner’s Spotlight on Lil Mys Ninja’s blog?  Read it here to find out why I started running, what running has taught me, my sources of running motivation, and more!**

So tell me in the comments … Have you ever used a standing desk?  Do you think you sit “too much” during the day?  Any tips on how to combat this?


  1. AwesomelyOZ

    I work in an office so I’m actually at my seat more often then I should be so that’s a bummer – I get one work from home day in which I try to be productive but I need to stand up more for sure and just walk around. Great points and thanks for sharing, have a great one Megan! -Iva

    • Megan Lyons

      Yes, I completely understand that sometimes it’s just the requirements of the job that you sit so much. Even though exercising and being active doesn’t “erase” the sitting portion, you’re still doing yourself a ton of good to be active later in the day!

    • Megan Lyons

      SO glad you’re in on the Reset, Deborah! So that your husband doesn’t think you’re crazy, just find a box laying around the house that is approximately the right height. If you start leaving it around the house, he might just give in and buy you a “real” standing desk :).

  2. Lora

    I haaaaaattttteeeee sitting for long periods at a time. I really, really, really want and need to get a standing desk. I prop my computer up and try to walk every 50 minutes, but that is not quite the same!

    • Megan Lyons

      Lora, I think it’s awesome that you try to walk every 50 minutes! At one point, I used to set an alarm on my computer to do that, but it just wasn’t really feasible in my old job. Keep up the good work!!!

  3. Michael Anderson

    OK, so once again I totally love this! I have to confess that I also love the implied double meaning – stand up as the literal meaning and also as in ‘stand up for your rights’ sort of thing!

    I definitely know that until a couple of years ago I fell into the ‘active couch potato’ category – my running allowed me to eat what I wanted and not worry about other stuff (though to be honest, when I was running actively, I always ate better and sought movement).

    My job as statistician and measurement engineer often involves a lot of desk time, and not all that flexible in terms of installing standing stuff. Fortunately like you say it is possible to find other ways – drinking lots of water is definitely one (along with choosing a more distant restroom), and making time to do periodic trips to the lab/production area I am involved with at the time also helps.

    With the current project it hasn’t been an issue – I read this initially before I headed to work, and (not counting my morning run) by 9AM I had already done 14 flights of stairs and 1-2 miles of walking … made me wish I had one of those activity trackers! We are in a very busy part of our development and it has all of us constantly on the move … literally! 🙂

    But I think the key is to be aware of when you are sedentary and find ways to keep yourself moving.

    • Megan Lyons

      WOW! You are really active at your job, Michael! That’s super impressive, especially for a “desk job.” Do you have an iPhone? There are some trackers that work just by carrying your phone around if you’re really curious. I know Argus comes highly recommended, and I think there are several others as well. You probably already know all of this with your technical prowess!

      • Michael Anderson

        Thanks – I actually have a ‘Polar Loop’ on the way to check out (actually the heart-rate monitor is here but the tracker is back-ordered) … will be interesting to see!

        Also, some interesting thoughts on how standing creates its own sets of issues, and so some are saying that the real key is to keep moving … but regardless standing more than sitting is definitely better.

        • Megan Lyons

          I tried out the Loop, too … can’t wait to hear what you think once you test yours out! Basically, I didn’t wear mine on runs, so my true activity measures were off and often I didn’t hit the full goal. But I still can’t stop wearing it, despite being mentally “over it” … I guess that’s a good thing!

  4. James Traub

    I haven’t tried standing yet–it almost seems impossible to do for the entire day, though a contraption like yours that makes it easy to switch back and forth seems helpful. I have tried sitting on a workout ball, but it’s EXHAUSTING (definitely taught me just how effective chairs are at doing what they do). Though I’ve tried the ball a couple times, I just can’t ever stick with it.

    • Megan Lyons

      James, it takes a while to work up to it. I’m still not standing 100% of the day, and I don’t think that has to be the goal! Just getting in a little bit of standing or alternating can be super helpful! I’ve never actually tried the ball, but I think if I were in a standard office setting, I would most likely fall backwards and end up embarrassing myself!!

  5. Kerry @ The Adventures of Z & K

    On my days off I KNOW I spend far too much time sitting in front of the computer. My posture when doing such is awful. Therefore I recently started using my physio ball as a seat. I’ve heard of people doing it so finally decided to see what all the hype was about. It’s kinda fun!

    • Megan Lyons

      Good for you, Kerry! That’s awesome! Like I said to James, I really want to try the physio ball as a chair. We have one downstairs, so I’m not sure why I’ve never used it!

  6. Holly Lyons

    We are very focused on ergonomics at work this year. I just invested in two adjustable desks for my team to test out. They are on a hydraulic system that allows them to sit or stand at any comfortable height. I see them popping up more and more all over the building and have no doubt that before long, they will be the norm.

    And I’d like to give Gary a big thank you as well…..he sends me great clippings on aerospace happenings each month!

    • Megan Lyons

      Let me know how those adjustable desks work, Holly! One of my clients had a bunch of adjustable desks, and people LOVED them. Another client had a treadmill desk that was run by a sign-up sheet, but NO ONE ever used it! Hope that your team loves it!

  7. Lauren

    Yes, so important! I always try to stand while working or take short breaks for walks or yoga poses. I just feel so much better & more energized moving around! I used to definitely do long runs…then sit on the couch the rest of the day.

    • Megan Lyons

      Sometimes it’s just TOO tempting not to sit on the couch all day after long runs … but it’s so much better for us if we can move around a bit!

  8. Cassie

    I totally sit too much during the day… I hate it!! I try to get up at least every hour, if not more… I’m constantly chugging water, so that helps. When I get home, typically I’m cooking, cleaning, etc. so I’m not really sitting until bed!

  9. Amy @ Long Drive Journey

    Ugh! Another thing I need to work on! I definitely sit on my butt too long while I’m at work! We were going to get treadmill desks as a part of a study, but since we are on the third floor with no elevator, it didn’t work out.

    • Megan Lyons

      Even though being on the 3rd floor prevented you from getting a treadmill desk, it still provides exercise if you have to walk up and down every day!!

  10. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun

    I really need to work on this! Much like you I sit a lot of the day working from home aside from when I am running – this would be a great addition!

    • Megan Lyons

      I hope you can find a box or something that works for a make-shift standing desk!

  11. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I am always getting up and walking around at work, so luckily I don’t sit for more than 20 minutes at a time throughout the work day. However, I should work on not sitting on the couch at night. After dinner I just like to relax, watch tv, and read blogs. I have tried to sit on my exercise ball for part of the time while I do those activities. Thanks for the very informative post! I knew sitting was bad but this adds even more reasons to get moving!

    • Megan Lyons

      Wow, Lisa, that’s so impressive that you don’t sit for more than 20 minutes during the day! I think you deserve a little relaxation on the couch after all of that!

  12. Becky@TheSavedRunner

    This post is full of such useful information! I wish people knew how detrimental sitting all day was to their health, because if they knew I think more people would do something about it. I have never had a standing desk, but I am a teacher so I don’t sit for too long normally anyways. 🙂 Oh and I love your rooftop!!

    • Megan Lyons

      Yes – teachers deserve awards for standing so much. I don’t know how you do it! Thanks for the comments on my rooftop – it’s SO fun!

  13. Maria @ Lil Mys Ninja

    Thanks for the shout out Megan! 🙂

    I have a desk job and I definitely make a point to get up various times through out the day to move around. Not to mention that my posture is horrible when I’m sitting. I’m so small that I’m constantly sitting on my legs, moving around in my seat and things. I just can never sit still!

    • Megan Lyons

      Thank you for letting me share, Maria! Yes, I sit on my legs, too … I’m not sure why I do that, but it’s a habit I’m trying to break!

  14. Gary

    Having worked in an office environment for the last 37 years where everyone, including yours truly, sits on his duff 90%+ of each day, I think that the change has to come from the management of the business. Practically speaking, it surely is not something that can happen over night as many employees are either not inclined nor, frankly, able to work in something less than a sedentary environment. I know that some of us might simply model the less sedentary ways to do the same job as an example, but I would like to invite suggestions from anyone who has actually tried to implement this type of change into their office work place and how it may have been received, or NOT, by the staff. I am sure that there are many unknown landmines that can be avoided when trying to implement this type of monumental change in ones daily work space and it would be great to know if certain “great ideas” have already proven to be not quite that! Thanks for any comments or ideas.

    • Megan Lyons

      I think you’re right, Gary. Most people in a company assume it’s not an option to do anything besides sit, until the management says there is another possibility. I have seen 3 different clients do things with varying success … one would encourage “walking meetings” outside, where any one-on-one meetings could take place in the big field area in the back of their building. That was really fun! The other two were what I mentioned to Holly above – the adjustable desks were loved at one client, and the treadmill desk was almost NEVER used at another client.


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Hi! I'm Megan Lyons,

the voice behind The Lyons’ Share. I love all things health, wellness, and fitness-related, and I hope to share some of my passion with you. Thanks for stopping by!
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