Lori Anderson: Standing may be healthy but I’d rather sit

If SITTING is the new smoking then I’m on two packs a day. Sitting, sprawling, lounging, I’ve always been good at it, the squidgier the upholstery the better, I have even been known to answer e-mails while supine.

Even Victoria Beckham has tried out working at a desk while standing. Picture: Twitter
Even Victoria Beckham has tried out working at a desk while standing. Picture: Twitter

I have a bad back, quite possibly because my muscles have wasted away – when any physio asks about my workspace set up I tend to look a bit sheepish and softly mutter, “Erm, laptop, couch” and prepare myself for an inevitable tongue lashing.

Everyone who has every looked at my back has said: “It’s your stance, its all wrong.” Yes, I have pretty much failed to grasp the basic tenets of bipedalism. Don’t worry, I have that thumb/forefinger mechanism down pat and I’m not quite a knuckle walker.

Simply put, I am not one to stand up and be counted or walk when there’s a velveteen chaise within my gaze. But what if our chairs are killing us?

In the 1950s, the Lancet published a study showing that bus conductors who were on their feet all day had 50 per cent less chance of heart disease than sedentary bus drivers.

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Since then, the research has mounted that our recumbent lifestyle is anything but beneficial, with new studies providing evidence that links sitting for long periods of time to everything from heart disease to cancer, diabetes to depression – and do not think for a second that a lunchtime run will sort it out.

The Centre for Personalised Health Care at the medical centre at Ohio State University has even calculated that for every hour spent sitting we shorten our lives by 22 minutes, a statistic I can’t quite believe but even if its only ten minutes shouldn’t we stand up and give it a try?

When it was suggested that I stand to write this, I felt like Kevin the teenager: “No I’m not doing it. I’ll call health and safety on you.

“Stand up for the morning? That’s crazy, my lumbago will kick in after 15 minutes, I’ll spend the rest of the day reeking of Bengay and be smothered in heat packs in the midst of an Indian summer.”

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It soon became apparent that I was required to rise upon my haunches for this piece. First I amassed my new vertical work uniform.

I knew that I would need to put my trainers on, accessorised with my special padded Lululemon running socks and loose comfortable clothing.

When I stand, my desk is at hip height – it would obviously take a feat of DIY engineering to raise my laptop to eye level.

My new lectern was quickly constructed from two firm cardboard shoe boxes, two years of back issues of American Elle Decor and a couple of hard-back coffee table glossies – one false move and it would be Kerplunk.

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Working myself into position felt like being back at deportment class – tummy in, tuck tail bone under, lower shoulders, maintain curve in spine.

Suddenly, I felt quite powerful and dynamic. I was now the conductor of my own life, rather than the driver of a train wreck. After a few minutes of shifting my weight from one hip to the other, I thought some kind of rocking shoes would help, maybe two upside down boomerangs glued to the soles of my trainers.

At first I couldn’t concentrate because all I could think was: “Behold, I’m standing and working.” I felt a certain pride swell within me, this is surely how Neil Armstrong must have felt.

Soon my arms began to feel simian – when not typing, my arms felt like two dead weights, so I began to swing them around like ribbons round a maypole.

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What I did notice was that I was doing much less day dreaming and drifting off. Aside from choreographing an imaginary Morris dance routine, I focused on my writing. For 40 minutes.

Soon my lower back began playing its symphony of sorrow and I decided that I needed a carrot, preferably one smothered in almond butter; standing burns 50 calories an hour – in a few hours I could reward myself with the richly yielding flesh of an avocado.

The balls of my feet started to burn and I kept bending forward to release the stress on my lower back. After 90 minutes I could stand it no longer and flounced back into the arms of my office romance, the chaise longue, and let out the long low groan of a wounded animal.

I’ve learned this week, while standing, that Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, the Virgin of the Rocks and “invented” the car and the parachute while at his standing desk.

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Benjamin Franklin, Charles Dickens, Nabokov, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway and Churchill also all liked to write at a standing lectern and today the hoodies at Facebook even have a choice of 350 standing desks. Me? I simply won’t stand for this.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be taking a leaf out of Churchill’s other book and enjoying a working breakfast in bed. I’ll pass on the cigar.