Why a Standing Desk is Not Enough
Break up sedentary habits with variety
Have you ever heard the statement in articles and journals that "sitting is the new smoking"? This statement arises from the adverse physical and physiological effects of a sedentary lifestyle. So, could the solution be as simple as transitioning to a standing position? Well, not exactly. What our bodies truly need is diversity. It's not a matter of choosing one over the other; our bodies thrive on movement and a range of movements to maintain mobility.
"No single exercise can represent the full spectrum of human movement." - Gray Cook
Whether you still work in a traditional office or have transitioned to a home office with remote work, standing desks have become increasingly accessible and affordable. As the desire to incorporate healthier behaviors into the workplace or personal space grows, so does the demand for standing desks. But is switching from one stationary position to another truly the answer?
The issue isn't that sitting is inherently bad; it's the excessive amount of sitting that many of us do throughout the day. We often assume that the bulk of our sitting occurs during work hours, but what about the time after work? It can add up much more quickly than we realize. Have you ever tracked your food intake to become more aware of your eating habits? How about tracking your sitting habits? I took a week to monitor the time I spent sitting and the types of sitting I engaged in (whether in a chair, on the floor, in the car, etc.). Keeping this log for a week helped me gain insight into my overall sedentary behavior, making me more aware of its sources. With this awareness, I was able to initiate some changes.
Given that a significant portion of my sitting was attributed to work (during my in-office "9-5" job days), I made a conscious effort to spend more time standing at my desk, incorporating breaks throughout the day to create a balance between sitting, standing, and taking short walks to keep my body in motion. The solution wasn't to simply replace sitting with standing, as such a switch might result in different areas of our body experiencing fatigue. Our bodies thrive on variety.
When we engage in a diverse range of movements, we can maintain mobility in multiple areas, rather than becoming accustomed to just one position. Returning to the topic of sitting, how many of you spend the entire week sitting at your desk and then engage in intense physical activities over the weekend? These weekend warriors, and I used to be one of them, can create more issues for ourselves. If our bodies become accustomed to sitting for extended periods and then suddenly face increased demands for mobility, strength, and endurance over a two-day period, it may lead to additional stress and a higher risk of injury. However, by integrating a wider range of movements throughout the day, we can reduce stress and the risk of injury when engaging in vigorous weekend activities.
So, how can we introduce diversity into our daily movements, especially when we work at a desk?
Here are a few ways to diversify your daily movements:
• Combine sitting and standing while working.
• Walk to retrieve items around your office instead of rolling in your chair. This will not only add steps but also involve squats, reaching, and other movements.
• Take intentional movement breaks; even 5 minutes can offer an array of movements. Focus on a different area of your body with each break.
• Go for a short walk after lunch to aid digestion, infuse some movement into your day, and combat post-lunch drowsiness.
• Vary your sitting positions by trying sitting on the floor, which allows you to adopt different postures and stretch.
• Consider incorporating wellness tools into your workspace – for more information, check out my article on creating an optimized office environment here.
"Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are." Theodore Roosevelt
Start this week by adopting one new habit, and add more as you become comfortable. In our busy world, there are numerous ways to layer our wellness habits, so be gentle with yourself. Remember that change takes time, both in forming new habits and adapting the body. Do what you can with the resources at your disposal, and don't hesitate to get creative!