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Sitting Is Bad for You. So I Stopped. For a Whole Month.

By 5 p.m. each day, all the attention that I once might have paid to office politics or world news is focused on my heels.  

10:00 Watch Game of Thrones. My wife is cuddled under a blanket on the couch. I am upright in the middle of the room, shifting from foot to foot like I have to pee.

11:35 Lie down in bed. Feels great. Gonna do some reading.

11:35:05 Asleep.

TOTAL SIT: 25 minutes (15 car, 10 toilet)

“Sitting was killing me,” says Michael Perko. I’m in my office at work, keyboard up on an aluminum tray, talking to him on speakerphone as I type. “When we sit for long periods of time, the enzymes responsible for burning fat shut down. Sitting too much can lower good cholesterol, HDL, and lead to a slower metabolism. In essence, sitting can cause the disease process.”

Perko, a professor at UNC-Greensboro, is a cheerful anti-sitting agitator: “Even if you’re active,” he says, “even if you get up at five and do your P90X—if you sit six hours a day, those benefits are negated.”

I explain my upstanding monthlong project, and his upbeat demeanor falters a bit. “Yeah, you know, this happens a lot. You get religion, and you go to the other extreme. I did it. I had no idea that I was wearing the wrong shoes and I didn’t have a good fatigue mat.”

“I’m good on those!” I say confidently.

Yyyyyeah,” he replies. “If you have any musculoskeletal problems, doing it all at once is not the right thing to do.”

“My back feels okay,” I lie.

“Well, good luck!” he signs off. “I hope you suffer no lasting effects!”

April 3

4:00 You know what’s an awkward place to stand? A movie theater. I’m watching a movie that I totally love, but I’m standing by the exit door, the only place I am not in other people’s way, except when they go to the bathroom and eye me like I’m an alien serial killer. I’m not the alien serial killer here! Scarlett Johansson is! I just like to watch films while hopping up and down and pacing, okay, pal?

TOTAL SIT: 45 minutes (40 car, 5 toilet)

I am already benefiting from my constant standing. So long, two o’clock snoozies. I’ve lost a couple of pounds. The shoulder tension and pain from hunching over a keyboard is gone, and my upper body feels ten years younger. For much of the day I am legitimately more productive. A basic work scenario: I’m stuck on a sentence and can’t figure out how to fix it. Sitting Dan opens a new tab in his browser and 15 minutes disappear. Standing Dan, meanwhile, takes a short walk around the office, maybe gets a snack, but who cares because Standing Dan is burning thousands of calories walking three miles a day.

But I can’t work into the night. By the early evening I’m wiped out, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better as the days go by. Instead, I’m just more tired and more sore. My calves and ankles and hips are possessed by separate dull, throbbing aches that never dissipate. I’m popping Tylenol, stretching, and toe-touching all day.

And my heels! How often do most guys notice or think about their actual heels? Never. But by 5 p.m. each day, all the attention that I once might have paid to office politics or world news is focused there. My family? My libido? Nope, heels. Somehow they are both throbbing and somewhat numb. If I take a shoe off and grab one, I can’t feel my own fingers on my skin, but my heel doesn’t stop hurting. So that’s a problem.

April 6

11:45 Extremely nice walk with older daughter, L., to shopping center for lunch (at tall table) and home. Walking a long way used to feel like work; now it’s a blissful respite from standing in one place.

4:15 Wife, on the phone to her mom: “Yeah, he’s standing up right now.” (Pause.) “Um, slightly more grumpy than usual.”

7:30 We’ve got tickets to a play tonight. I sit in my seat, on the grounds that I don’t want to be escorted out. Probably a cop-out. It feels so, so, so, so good.

TOTAL SIT: 125 minutes (90 play, 30 car, 5 toilet)

At the office I am quick to tell co-workers that this is a stunt, that they shouldn’t expect me to seem healthy and awesome forever. The $149 WorkEZ desk trays I ordered are shaky and annoying. At home, I use a much more enjoyable (and thrice as expensive) Kangaroo Pro, lent to me by the nice people at Ergo Desktop, which slides up and down like a dream but takes over my entire desk.

During meetings, I move around the conference room, adopting the positions that band members strike in terrible publicity photos. (One knee flexed, foot pressed against wall; crouching; resting on heels, arms folded.) The power poses are hard to maintain, and anyway I’m always on the outskirts of the meeting so my contributions seem speakerphoned even to those in the room. Then I take the train home and, no matter how many seats are open, I’m upright in the middle of the car.