Sometimes to stay fit, you have to take a stand. New research — that sifted through nearly 700 studies on the health benefits of standing desks — determined those that stand for six hours a day burn 54 calories. And while that sounds like a meager amount, over the course of a year, that translates to a little more than five-and-a-half pounds. (In other words, roughly the number women most often say they’d like to lose.)
Not to mention there are other, more important benefits of standing tall. It is widely accepted now that “sitting is the new smoking,” says weight loss expert Liz Josefsberg, the author of Target 100. Explaining that when seated, your heart rate and blood flow slow down “bringing the metabolism to a crawl,” she notes that “sedentary lifestyles are leading to obesity and cardiovascular decline, diabetes and cancers.”
But while it’s easy to remind yourself of the benefits of standing and tell yourself to stand more, the habit can be harder to create in practice. In her book, she teaches ways to form new patterns.
“The key is to understand that you will not simply remember to do it,” she explains. “Use reminders on your smart phone that tell you to get up and move around. Set walking meetings with friends. The key is to trigger the new routines and carry them out consistently enough that the behavior becomes second nature.”
She also shared a few ways that you can rise up.
Take stock of your sitting.
Josefsberg says most of her clients are “shocked” to discover just how often they’re off their feet: “Sitting on a train to work, sitting at a desk, coming home to sit in a car driving kids around or sit in front of the TV.” Her tip: write it all down, then find ways to work on movement. For instance, if you’re watching your kids’ baseball game, she suggests, “Why not get up and walk around the little league field in between innings?”
Sound the alarm.
Many wearables come equipped with alerts that vibrate and remind you to stand every 30 minutes or an hour, she notes. Even getting up a few minutes each time, “would be an excellent way to get blood flowing to the extremities.”
Get personal at work.
Along with walking over to colleagues for discussions rather than calling or sending an email, she advises setting walking meetings and printing documents to a spot across the office.
Make it a point to walk and talk. Josefsberg carries a $10 headset wherever she goes so she can take all phone calls on the go: “When my phone rings I plug it in and start pacing. It adds about 500-700 steps each half hour!”
Revamp your couch potato status.
She suggests making standing during TV commercials a game. “First one to get up gets a point!” she says. “Keep track and have a reward in mind.”
Make a walking bet.
Round up a group of pals with pedometers and challenge them to a weekly step contest. Says the pro, “I see these really giving my clients the small boost of competition they need to be really motivated to change their habits!”
Walk it out whenever you can.
Josefsberg recommends enjoying after-dinner strolls, meeting friends for walking dates or even volunteering to walk dogs at a local shelter. “Investigate your commute as well,” she says. “Could you walk to the next furthest train or bus stop?”
And for the truly committed, try taking a stand at work. A standing desk would be a great help, says Josefsberg, noting one with a treadmill below would be even more effective. If you’re going to take the plunge, find one that can be raised and lowered, she says: “I would not recommend standing all day, but instead for small periods of time periodically.”