The recent exercise-while-you-work craze introduced the treadmill desk, the elliptical machine desk, balance ball chairs, and even the stationary bike desk. They sounded promising. After all, exercise fosters faster learning, better memory encoding and retrieval, and increased creativity.
But in practice, research has shown that “multitasking physical tasks (such as walking or balancing while typing) can be just as counterproductive as multitasking mental tasks.” According to a recent study, “You’re splitting your attention, and you’re probably making a lot of typos.” The research, which appeared recently in the journal PLOS ONE, found treadmill desks suppress performance for up to six months.
In contrast, a recent article in Men’s Fitness recommended the standing desk. Standing burns 80 to 100 calories an hour more than sitting, as well as improving blood flow, relieving back pain, and strengthening muscles. It also boosts productivity. “The health benefits are probably even greater than the data already suggests,” writes James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., a lead researcher on the PLOS ONE study and author of Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.
Levine emphasizes there is a right way to transition to a standing desk. Start slowly. If you try to stand for long periods initially, your muscles will be strained. At first, you may also feel a tightness in your meniscus, the pad inside your knee that serves as a pressure absorber.
Stand tall. Roll your shoulders up and back then let them drop. Stick your posterior out and tuck your pelvis under. Unlock your knees somewhat, and bend your elbows ninety degrees. Relax and straighten your wrists and position your weight on the middle of your feet rather than on your toes or heels.
Whenever you begin to feel genuine discomfort, sit down. You might begin by alternating standing for fifty minutes with sitting for ten minutes of each hour. A rubber pad under your feel can reduce the pressure on your knees and ankles.
Mat Honan, Silicon Valley bureau chief for Buzzfeed and an avid standup desk worker, says, “You have to be prepared to give everyone in your office the full health rundown.” He warns that coworkers will probably give you a hard time at first. But after three weeks, when you are seeing the benefits, they may be ready to make the move themselves.