Expert says even your standing desk can’t save you from dying, but this might

“It’s not the furniture that makes the difference, it’s the behavior. The desk without the behavior doesn’t help you.” Something to think about.

Deception, thy name is standing desk.

For years, workers have been told that if we just raise our desks for 30 minutes after lunch, we will live forever (or something like that). Entire offices have been remodeled based on this concept. For a while, people dutifully stood, adjusting their laptop screens for point of view.

But the same man who sold us on standing — James Levine from Mayo Clinic, who in 2011 told The New York Times Magazine that “excessive sitting is a lethal activity” — has now decided we’re doing it all wrong.

When Christopher Keyes, editor of Outside magazine, called up Levine, the doctor had some dismal news. “It’s not the furniture that makes the difference, it’s the behavior,” he told Keyes. “The desk without the behavior doesn’t help you.”

Oh, standing desk — how thou hath betrayed us. Apparently, hours casually leaning on a stool to reach our elevated desk aren’t what we need, either, and cool office installations won’t save us. We’re doomed.

Wait, no, sorry. That’s not actually what Keyes said. In fact, there are plenty of ways for us to model the behavior Levine is referencing. They’re just a little more tedious.

“The stillness is what’s killing us,” Keyes writes. “We should be pacing the hallways and climbing stairs and squatting and lunging and stretching.”

In fact, we should be spending two to four hours on our feet during work time — and in case those numbers don’t compute, that’s a lot of hours. We need to be doing pushups and wall sits, climbing stairs and going for strolls around the office. The question is, how?

Keyes has gotten stealthy about all of it. Using an app called Move, he gets notifications every 45 minutes that he has to complete a random exercise. And he follows orders, but inconspicuously.

“I do push-ups with an ear cocked toward the door, listening for approaching footsteps,” Keyes writes. “I do wall sits in a corner that no one can see from the hallway. While I’m on the phone, I pace as if I’m carefully deliberating vital magazine business.”

For those who are interested in not dying, Keyes has come up with a basic schedule to show what three hours of daily movements would entail. Here’s what he suggests:

7 a.m.

Morning run (45 minutes)

8:30 a.m.

Walk to coffee shop (10 minutes)

9:15 a.m.

25 push-ups (1 minute)

10 a.m.

Wall sit (2 minutes)
Walk around the building plus three flights of stairs (5 minutes)

10:45 a.m.

20 body-weight squats (2 minutes)
Trip to far water fountain (3 minutes)

11:30 a.m.

Pick up papers at printer plus two flights of stairs (4 minutes)

12:15 p.m.

25 push-ups (1 minute)
15 side lunges, each leg (2 minutes)
Plank pose (2 minutes)
Pacing during phone call (10 minutes)

1 p.m.

Walk around building for quick meetings (10 minutes)
Desk yoga: hip openers, seated eagles, spinal rotations, shoulder stretches (5 minutes)

2 p.m.

25 push-ups (1 minute)

2:30 p.m.

Walking meeting (45 minutes)

3:30 p.m.

15 Hindu push-ups (1 minute)
20 side leg raises (1 minute)

4:15 p.m.

Chair pose (1 minute)
20 body-weight squats (2 minutes)
Walk around the building (5 minutes)

5 p.m.

Plank pose (2 minutes)
20 burpees (2 minutes)

5:45 p.m.

Walk around building plus four flights of stairs (5 minutes)

Not tracked: Walking to and from the car, roaming the grocery store, playing with my kids, etc.

Are you game?

Alexandra Villarreal|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at avillarreal@theladders.com.