Benefits of The Standing Desk

Submitted by jaffney on Fri, 2013-05-10 12:13

At CFH2O, we use standing desks to answer emails, write programming and make posts like these.

“You have one hour in the gym per day. And 23 hours per day to build on that progress.” Thankfully this is a concept most of our athletes understand: you strive to get proper sleep, plan and cook Paleo meals, and stay hydrated. However, one aspect of life often gets lost when cultivating good health habits: the work environment.

Most people spend at least six hours per day sitting at a desk. Add in driving, leisure time at home in front of the computer, or on a Kindle, and the hours add up. How long have you had an office job? How long did you spend sitting in school and college classes only to go home and sit some more while studying? Given this lifestyle it’s amazing that any of us can reach full depth in an air squat.

Sitting can cause slowed metabolism, weakened and tight glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors -- ever wonder why Kongs elicit such groans during the warm-up? -- bad posture, fatigue, neck and back issues. What are your abs and back doing as you read this? How about your neck and shoulders?

Additionally getting up from your chair requires an extremely limited range of motion, one that favors the quads and barely engages the hamstrings or hip flexors. It partly explains why when learning the air squat many athletes come up on their toes, why some athletes try to squat their deadlifts, and why it takes months of focused flexibility work for some athletes to break parallel in a squat. And, sorry CrossFitters, but even doing vigorous exercise is not a sure way to counteract the effects of sitting all day.

A standing desk can help improve these issues. Using a standing desk will keep your muscles more active. It may even have a positive effect on metabolism. Additionally it will likely improve your posture and body awareness. How many times have you been cued “abs on” or “straight back” and had no idea what your back had been doing?

If you need help convincing your employer that a standing desk is worth the (minimal) expense and change to the office environment, you can mention that many people experience increased productivity from using a standing desk. According to the health news website, EmaxHealth: “Getting out of your chair can also offer psychological and productivity benefits. Standing while you work improves concentration by increasing blood flow to the brain. Many who stand state that their thinking is clearer and they have an improved ability to focus on problems. Some also report feelings of improved self-esteem and social development.” Similarly, according to the Vermont Department of Education, exercise can improve achievement. Anecdotal evidence also points to increased energy and productivity, and the disappearance of the traditional “3pm slump”.

Be aware that, as Physical Therapist and CrossFit San Francisco owner Kelly Starrett says, standing “takes skill”. Chances are you won’t just get up from decades of prolonged sitting and magically have good standing posture. 

Here are a few of KStar’s guidelines for maintaining good posture while using a standing desk:

     * Stand with feet parallel, not duck footed!
     * Start in standing savasana: back straight, ribs down, elbows near body (think of our jump rope form). Keep the shoulders externally rotated and put the palms down to type.
     * You can get even more out of this position further by propping your foot on the desk to get a deep hip stretch or rolling your feet over a LAX ball.

Stand-up desks can be purchased online. There are even adjustable ones so you can occasionally sit. If you want to be more economical you can modify Ikea furniture or even go the DIY route: stack books on your current desk, raise your current desk, etc.

Here are some additional resources and how-to’s:

Images of Standing Desks

Lifehack's Info on Standing Desk

Lifehacks DIY Guide

Modify an Ikea desk

"Is Sitting A Lethal Activity?" NYT article