Get Up, Stand Up.

The volume of the buzz about the dangers of sitting has been gradually increasing over the last few years. Now, it’s less like a gnat and more like a giant cicada for me, especially as I start to dig into two new massive writing projects. I’m trying to start a new habit, and I invite you to try it along with me. It’s called Get Up, Stand Up.

For your listening pleasure while you read the ideas in this post: Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up”… because it’s your right to be healthy.

What is Get Up, Stand Up?

It’s pretty simple. Every time I sit down at my desk to work, I’m going to set a timer for one hour. When the timer goes off, I’m going to do one of the following activities — should take less than 5 minutes:

50 air squats
25 situps
3X10 pushups
shoulder mobility:  arm circles forward/back/up & down/scissors, pec stretch, behind-the-neck press w/ PVC
25 walking lunges
15 pullups (band)
25 stepups/leg
20 dips (chair)
a walk around the block
dance break!

As part of my Get Up, Stand Up routine, I’ll send a tweet when my timer goes off so you can play along with me if you’d like. We’ll be virtual workout buddies!

I Know What You’re Thinking

You’re thinking, “That’s easy enough for you, Mel. You work at home.”

And you’re right. It’s slightly easier for me because I’m in my home office. But for those of you that work in a corporate setting, shared office, cubicle, or other space outside your house, I have ideas for you, too.

It doesn’t have to be every hour.
I have complete control over my schedule, so I can set a 6-minute timer, but in an office, you might not. You might have meetings and other requirements, so just do your best. Get up and move as often as possible. Suggest a walk around the block with a colleague to discuss an issue instead of a sit-down meeting. In long meetings, get up and move around while talking. The first time might feel awkward, but as it becomes a habit, it will get easier. Embrace your reputation as the “weirdo” who likes to stand during meetings. (I might have been that girl in my office. Maybe.)

Request a standing desk.
I’ve toyed with the idea of a standing desk, but I’m trying this movement thing instead. Lots of corporate offices are open to the idea of standing desks because it’s in their best interest to keep you healthy and productive. Here are two pretty good articles to help you explore the possibilities and make your case: Why and How I Switched to a Standing Desk; from the Wall Street Journal, Standing Desks are on the Rise; and tips from Boing Boing.

Try a few cubicle- and office-friendly movements.
I used to practice handstands in my corporate overlords’ hallway in a corner that was hidden from the video surveillance cameras, so clearly, I have no issues with acting like a ding-dong at work. I understand that others have aspirations to be respected in the office — or maybe have to comply with a formal-ish dress code — so I’ve pulled together some ideas for movements that might not draw unwanted attention to you.

If you have your own cube, you can do squats, pushups, situps, stationary lunges, dips, etc. where no one can see you. If you don’t have a private cubicle, try these:

Go into the hallway and do walking lunges up and back.

Walk up and down flights of stairs. (Works even if you wear grown-up clothes.)

Take a walk around the block. Smokers take smoke breaks; you deserve a walking break. (Works even if you wear grown-up clothes.)

Use the sink counter in the rest room to do elevated pushups; wash hands accordingly after. (No lie: When I worked in my corporate office, I used to go in the large handicap stall to do air squats when I needed a break.)

Look around and see what your office has to offer for “equipment.” My old corporate kitchen was empty in the afternoons and had a heavy wooden bench that was the perfect height for step-ups. Look with fresh eyes at your environment and see what you can come up with!

Want to Get Up, Stand Up with me?

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  • Barbara says:

    LOVE this post!!!! So true!

  • Eric Ullman says:

    I’m in!

  • kelly says:

    Thanks for the reminder and extra ideas. I do walk outside, do 8 flights of stairs and even have small dumbbells and a 10lb kettlebell in my office but I don’t use them every day and need to My back is getting so bad from sitting 9 hours a day, 5 days a week 🙁

    • Mel says:

      I love that you have gear in your office. That’s awesome! My old office was on the 12th floor, but security wouldn’t allow us to use the stairs. That always really bummed me out.


  • Betsy says:

    I’ve thought about doing this from time to time but always forget. I’ve just put a reminder in my project-tracking software. I’m in!

  • kelly alice. says:

    i have embraced my weirdoness and have even gotten my student workers and graduate assistants into doing stuff with me. i brought my pullup bar and bands into work. fun for the whole office, er, family!

  • Liz H. says:

    I just ordered this cube timer, and I’m super excited to use it for housework, school work (studying for the bar this summer!!), and exercise. I’ll def. set it for 60 minutes while I’m putting in long hours studying this summer. Thanks for the workout list!!

  • Adam Kayce says:

    I tried doing the sit-for-time, then get-up-and-move thing, but it just didn’t do the trick for me. So, I put a board on a storage crate on top of my desk, and voilà – standing desk on the cheap!

    (I do have a bar stool as backup, but I can only stand it for minutes at a time…)

    I love standing now, and being on the floor. Can’t stand to sit in a regular chair at all… blech. Viva la revolucion!

  • Rachel Dixon says:

    I love my standing desk! Counter-intuitively, it helped me with midday leg/spine pain from an old hip injury. Can’t imagine working any other way now.

  • natalie says:

    as soon as i read this article, i submitted a ticket to facilities as my workplace (standard procedure), and 10 minutes later they were at my desk with a standing desk attachment! AMAZING. my life is already exponentially better! thank you!!!

  • pbo says:

    Very cool! Great advice.

  • Karen C. says:

    Awesome idea! I sit way too much.

  • Sonya says:

    A coworker and I had to fight to get standing desks and we were like a local attraction once word got out but it was a fight worth fighting. (we had that .pdf and a few others hanging on the cube walls during our fight) We’re in a cube farm with 6 ft. cube walls so it was just a matter of raising the desk part – $0, a standing mat $14 and a stool for when we want/need to sit $79. Our productivity is waaaaayyyy up!

    I also do standing push ups agains the filing cabinets whenever we are standing around chit chatting.

    Best. Decision. Ever.

  • K says:
    set it to any time intervals you like…

  • Beth says:

    I knew I wouldn’t remember to get up every 60 minutes but I am inspired and came up with my own version: No using the ladies room on my floor (7). So far today I’ve been to the 5th floor and the 9th floor and got in 4 flights of stairs. Love your posts.

    • Marianne says:

      Yeah, Beth — another version of parking at the far end of the lot! When I used to work at a university and had no problem accessing other buildings, I always used the “neighbor’s” restrooms–a great break and fun to wander a bit in buildings I wasn’t so familiar with. I even found one ladies hideaway with a wicker chaise lounge and potted ferns!

  • Tara says:

    What a fantastic idea! My daughter will probably think this is the funniest, weirdest thing ever, but showing her I’m being active while she plays and we play together will be great! Especially because I usually CrossFit at 5:30am and am pretty stagnant the rest of the day!

    • Mel says:

      That’s the thing, right? You figure if you workout regularly, you’re good to go. But the research about sitting kinda freaks me out.

  • Season B says:

    Check out! I work for a company (Ergotron) that produces a product called the “WorkFit” which is a sit to stand option for all you office workers and that is also ergonomically correct.

  • Jenn says:

    Count me in! I’ll be setting my alarms on my phone tomorrow! 🙂

  • Beverly says:

    Does it count that when I’m sitting my feet/legs are bouncing? I don’t ever seem to sit still, never have, drove my mom and sister nuts!

  • kim says:

    I’m getting ip right now to print off these facts to share in my office…count me in!!

  • Amy says:

    I’m not the only one who does air squats in the ladies room at work?! This totally made my day!

  • Lydia says:

    I should’ve known I wasn’t the only person who stands during business meetings. Side benefit? I’ve noticed the meetings are a lot shorter since I started standing. People feel weird about making me stand longer than necessary, so they talk less.


  • Danielle C says:

    You are a goddess. I needed this so badly – thank you!!!

  • jj says:

    I am so in. I’ll follow along on twitter (thatgirljj), at least when I’m at my desk. A couple days a week I’m already on my feet for a big chunk of the day (and thus away from twitter).

  • Julie says:

    My company did object to me getting up and taking a 2 minute walk break every hour (even though the smokers are outside 10-15 minutes per hour. They viewed it as a sign that I didn’t have enough to do.

    We moved our office several months ago. They asked what peole wanted in the new office. I requested a standing desk. This request was completely ignored. My husband built a keyboard and monitor stand to my specifications so I could stand.

    I stand at my desk 98% of the time. After 3 months they did get me the stool I requested so that I could sit while I was eating without totally dismantling the desk.

    I guess my point is that many employers are more willing to accommodate poor lifestyle choices (smoking) and problems caused by them than the wish to do something to promote health.

    As an aside: When one of my co-workers injured her back, her Dr. wrote a note that she couldn’t sit. They asked if she could borrow my set up. I did let her do that but said if it went more than a week, they would need to purchase whatever was required. They had the nerve to ask if my husband was willing to make another set,

    PS I LOVE to stand.

    • barb says:

      You should have said “Sure, He’ll build it, here’s the estimate for parts, labor & design, $5,000.”

    • Mel says:

      Those stories are kind of horrific… but good on you for taking charge of what you need. Keep on fightin’ the good fight!

  • I do the same thing 🙂 Though, the only way I can do it is in the personal lockable bathroom. Yes, strange, but it works.

  • Kerri says:

    Yes! Great post… I’m in!

  • Elyse says:

    Timely post!! At the start of April, I made a committment to walk outside during lunch every day. Unfortunately, bad weather, meetings, work overload and crankiness got in the way. So last week I took a different approach–setting a one hour reminder in Outlook. Every time it pops up on my screen I take a 6 1/2 minute stroll down 3 flights of stairs across to the end of my long building and back. Upon my return I hit snooze for an hour. Most days this helps me effortlessly fit in 33-40 minutes of walking. I am more focused the other 54 minutes of the hour so it’s a win win.

    I should mention that this required one wardrobe change. I ditched my heels and bought a pair of flats that I now wear every day. The trigger was that I realized I walked much more during the day on Fridays when I typically wear sneakers. Amazing how such a small change made a huge difference for me.

    • Mel says:

      I love both aspects of this story… right ON!

      I realized last night, that when I stick to this plan, I’m going to accumulate a lot of bodyweight exercises with not too much effort. Love it!

  • What a great idea! For a couple of years I’ve talked about moving more during my day (I’m a web developer so I’m not only seated but worse, mesmerized for HOURS by the computer!) but have only managed to move slightly more outside of my workouts. I love adventure travel and every time I get back from a trip I feel so BUMMED physically and mentally to be chained to my desk. And yet – who’s stopping me except myself?

    I’ve just set a timer for an hour so – here we go! Thanks so much, Melissa, for great ideas like these and your delicious recipes. I made *pork-based* meatza on Wednesday (if you add crushed fennel seeds and garlic it tastes like sausage!) and Tuesday night I made your zucchini “pasta” with our grilled sirloin! These are really creative, delicious recipes. 🙂

    Have a great weekend! (DING!)

    • Mel says:

      I spend all day on teh computer, too. So bad. SO bad. I’m about to get up and do my first movement of the day. I’m thinking some walking lunges…

      It’s fun to play around with the meatza, no? And I almost always have zucchini noodles in the fridge now. Bless vegetables that pretend to be other things 😉

  • Michelle M says:

    Thank you for the inspiration! I’m a stay-at-home Mom, so there’s no reason I shouldn’t take breaks during the day. I loaded a timer app on my iPad and iPod touch to help me track my time, and my “Be Active” breaks give me the opportunity to get in extra karate practice!

  • Melinda Nickas says:

    I’m taking the Stand-up Challenge! I’m working at my kitchen counter, which I’m already loving. I’m listening to Pandora and dancing around to Florence and the Machine. Not getting too much work done, but I’m having fun 🙂

  • Jsquared says:

    I have to saw that I have worked a myriad of jobs, including teaching, waitressing, and retail jobs. I am in the process of losing weight, have joined the Y and take at least once a day (except Sunday). I am currently working retail and am on my feet for at least 6 hours a day and it is killing me! I wear sneakers and padded socks. Is it the extra weight that is making it such an exhausting thing for me? ;/

    • Mel says:

      I don’t think it’s extra weight — I think it’s that you’re working hard, friend. Give yourself time to adapt, and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential for weight loss, managing stress, and consistent energy.

    • Hi! I have found that posture is extremely important if you are going to spend a lot of time standing. Your pelvic alignment has to be in the correct position to provide the necessary support. I had a bad anterior tilt from wearing high heels and sitting most of my life. Standing for short periods of time would hurt my back and make me incredibly tired. I had a lightbulb moment when attending a seminar where there was standing room only and I could comfortably stand for over an hour and when I did start fatiguing if I focused more on correcting my posture even beyond what I had become normal (not optimal) at that point it was better. It’s also good to move as much as you can even if it’s just alternating standing on one leg by raising one foot behind the other.

      There is a YouTube channel where a functional trainer has posted lots of free content on how to improve your posture. Just search for Functional Patterns and maybe posture or alignment.


  • LauraG says:

    I used to battle nearly daily with a co-manager who would fuss at our team for standing up. I work in a call center and people were tethered to their phones for hours on end. It’s only natural, and healthy!, for them to stand & move around a bit.

    Luckily that manager is now in a different department 😛

  • Melissa says:

    I have been trying to get them to convert my workstation to at least standing part time, for years.

    Maybe this will help 🙂

  • I made the switch to stand up a few months ago and contrary to what others had experienced I did not automatically drop 4-5 lbs! Anyway, I found the current offering of stand up desks to be quite expensive. Also at home I wanted something that could ‘hide’ my work station when not in use. I eventually bought a pantry cupboard and ‘customized’ it. Thank goodness my husband has an Engineering mind and we could make the keyboard tray work even though we had to flip it upside down! ;o)

    Don’t get me started on the corporate support for standing workstations – let me just say mine is a construction laptop risers and Staples boxes.

    What some people don’t realize is that just standing eg. at a kitchen counter or some other taller surface is not ideal because you could end up causing neck and shoulder strain. Your monitor needs to be at eye level so you look straight on to it and your arms need to rest at 90 degrees when on your keyboard.

    I had been seeing a NUCCA specialist at the time I made the switch and it altered the position of my head on my neck at first because I was leaning my head forward to read text. Your head is extremely heavy and so having it ‘off-center’ can cause problems.

    I like your solution! Even if you work standing up it is advisable to still move around frequently.


  • Lauren says:

    I do my own version of this where I walk around the office building for about 5 minutes or when I go to the restroom, I climb the stairs..

  • I”m a blue collar worker and so I don’t have this issue, however, when I do jobs at office buildings I can see how what you’re saying is true! My sister also says that she walks to people’s offices to ask a question or talk, instead of emailing or using the inter-office phone system. This gets her up and around. So you guys could do that too!

  • Annika says:

    I just got a free app for my Mac called Pester, which you can set to make a sound or throw up a pop-up window to remind you to do something. I have a posture problem, so I set it to alarm every 2 minutes to remind me to sit up straight, and every 20 minutes to remind me to #getupstandup. I’ve only used it for an hour or so, but it works great so far!

    • Mel says:

      Oooh! Pester sounds fun. I’m going to look into that!

      I gotta say: I’m tempted by the idea of getting up every 20 minutes. Good for you!

  • Dr. Dan Egan says:

    I think I’ll do the dance break. Should I close my office door and let it all hang out or should I let everyone think I’m crazy?