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Standing Desks

Standing desks have been around for a while now and the consensus is that they must be good for us, but on closer questioning people are often unsure why.

Call it your ‘Activity Desk’. 

Keep moving, keep muscles working, keep blood flowing; it is what we were designed to be doing.

The big health problem with inactivity is the fact that we stop using our muscles. Therefore, I like to call standing desks, ‘activity desks’; this instantly implies that you must remain active while standing at this desk. This encourages you to keep moving and working muscles throughout the day. We as humans have evolved to be good at walking about and doing stuff with our arms.

Standing desks. 

They can improve your general health. Sitting for too long can contribute to health issues.

In recent years a variety of major international research (1) has produced compelling evidence that sitting for more than 4 hours each day can lead to:

  • Enzymes responsible for burning harmful blood fats shutting down

  • Reduced calorie burning (Metabolic rate)

  • Disrupted blood sugar levels

  • Increased insulin and blood pressure levels

  • Leg muscles switch off

Interestingly, even if you are very active for part of the day, your daily session at the gym for example, this physical activity only has a limited protective effect, and inactivity will still lead to increased risks of:

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Cancer

  • Back ache

  • Dementia

  • Depression

  • Muscle degeneration

How to stand at your standing desk. 

Stand in the same way that you would stand on a bus on a bumpy road and then keep fidgeting.

The easiest way to explain how to stand, is to stand in the way that you would stand on a moving bus or train. You would stand with your knees slightly unlocked, and your weight would be shifting from side to side. Do not stand with your knees locked out. To gain more benefit still, keep shifting your weight from leg to leg, be a real fidget; after a while you'll find this movement becomes quite natural. 

How to start using your standing desk. 

Start slowly, and gradually increase the time you spend standing. It may take a while to get used to it.

If you suddenly go from sitting all day to standing all day, you run the risk of developing back or leg pain. Ease into it by starting with 30 to 60 minute periods, maybe twice a day and then gradually increasing it.  You can set a timer to dictate these sessions. Another way is to allocate certain tasks to standing and others to sitting; for example, answer all your emails while standing, but when you have a meaty piece of work to concentrate on, sit down for this. You will need to work out what works best for you. 

Main Points

Call it your ‘Activity Desk’. 
Keep moving, keep muscles working, keep blood flowing; it is what we were designed to be doing.

Standing desks. 
They can improve your general health. Sitting for too long can contribute to health issues.

How to stand at your standing desk. 
Stand in the same way that you would stand in a bus on a bumpy road and then keep fidgeting.

How to start using your standing desk. 
Start slowly, and gradually increase the time you spend standing. It may take a while to get used to it.

Standing very still is painful. 
Ask any guard outside Buckingham Palace why he periodically marches up and down, the answer is that he cannot ‘stand’ standing still. Movement is key.

 

Standing very still is painful. 

Ask any guard outside Buckingham Palace why he periodically marches up and down. The answer is that he cannot ‘stand’ standing still. Movement is key.

Standing very still means that we are using muscles in a very static manner. The muscles are still working, or we would fall over, however they are under constant static contraction. This makes them go hard and starves the muscle of blood. A faster way of inducing this event is the gym favorite of the wall squat. This brings on muscle pain within a few minutes even for the fittest athlete.

Wall Squat

However, most of us can walk for hours. The difference is blood flow. In the wall squat, the leg muscles are starved of blood and there is a build up of metabolites in the muscles which result in pain. When we carry out rhythmic activities (walking, running), the muscles contract (squeezing blood out of themselves) and then relax (allowing blood back in), and this is what muscles love, and it does not result in pain.

Let us take that same concept into sitting. By nature, sitting is a very static activity as we are stuck to the chair. Our muscles fatigue very quickly, and to mitigate this we let them relax, as we will not fall over. Unfortunately, this makes us slump and other structures (joints, ligaments) then must carry our weight which are not designed to work in this manner, which can eventually result in pain.

Motion is key to blood flow, which is key to health.

References

  1. http://www.getbritainstanding.org/research.php