The best way to learn good habits is to start young. With all of the evidence that has come to light as of late regarding how bad sitting is for your body, why is it that we don’t give children stand-up desks throughout primary school? When you try and migrate to a standing desk in your 20’s, 30’s, or later, the change can be quite tough, but imagine if it was the norm from the age of six or so!
That’s exactly what entrepreneur and investor Tim Ferriss is pushing towards. For his 38th birthday he is aiming to raise money to support the outfitting of an entire elementary school with only standing desks. Working with the StandupKids organization, his goal is to raise at least $100,000 through donations from readers of his popular Four Hour Work Week blog. This will allow Vallecito Elementary School Ms. Grey to buy a standing desk for each one of the 350 students enrolled there.
There have been numerous studies done on the effect of sitting all day, and all of them come to the conclusion that it is very bad for our bodies. In the beginning it was assumed that if you mixed in some exercise, it would negate the effects of sitting, but then there was a study that reported it had little effect overall. Now another study comes along and says that negative effects can be offset with as little as ten minutes of walking every day. Or, is it possible to just fidget our way out of the inevitable repercussions?
So, what to believe?
To assist the rest of us, Lynne Shallcross, of NPR, has written an article debunking some of the reports of recent years. Spoiler: don’t sit too much, and the answer is up to the individual.
So what if you site all day? You exercise multiple times every week, aren’t overweight, eat healthy–that should counteract it, right?
Not so, says a recent report by the The Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Based on their research, “prolonged TV viewing and time spent in other sedentary pursuits is associated with increased risks of certain types of cancer.” And yes, this includes sitting at your desk.
Adjustment for physical activity did not affect the positive association between sedentary behavior and cancer,” the authors write. Even participants who achieved the daily recommended levels of physical activity were at the same risk as those who spent their day sitting. “[The results] indicate that the increased risk of cancer seen in individuals with prolonged time spent sedentary is not explained by the mere absence of physical activity in those persons,” the researchers say.
Besides the usual weight gain issues, the researchers pointed the finger at the fact that such behavior causes “harmful biological signaling.” In short, sitting all the time causes your body to change its chemistry.
“A few hours of sitting suppresses a gene that helps keep your cardiovascular system healthy by controlling inflammation and blood clotting.”
I recently came upon an interesting Indiegogo campaign for the FluidStance Level–a standing desk accessory of sorts. What is it? It’s basically a platform that you stand on while at your desk which aims to promote circulation and movement.
From their web site:
The Level by FluidStance is a work platform that elicits subtle, constant movement below your feet to increase your range of motion and heart rate. Developed primarily as a tool for your immediate workspace, it can be used in common areas of both the home and office, or as a complement to a stand-up desk. The patent-pending design allows you to change the overall aesthetics via interchangeable top decks, floating bumpers, and base plates.
Unlike your standard treadmill desk setup, the FluidStance Level is smaller, cheaper, and pretty cool looking. However, the amount of actual exercise you’ll be doing is of course quite a bit less.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a brief standing desk comedy interlude, courtesy of Mr. Tom O’Donnell.
Fact: even regular exercise isn’t enough to counteract the damage from all this sitting, meaning that regular exercise is stupid and pointless. (I don’t exercise.)
Fact: if you were to remain seated for the amount of time it takes to read this article, you would develop Type 2 diabetes long before reaching the end.
Read “I Switched To A Standing Desk, So Now You Should, Too” over at The New Yorker.
Standing desks aren’t a viable option for some of us–especially those that travel a lot (such as myself). I have a standing desk at home, but weighing in at almost 200 lbs. it doesn’t travel very well. So what is one to do when on the road? There are a few options when it comes to portable standing desks, including my tried and true method of stacking hotel desk drawers on top of each other, or using the ironing board as a workspace.
But what if you want something a bit less destructive and a bit more aesthetically pleasing? That’s where StandStand comes in.
A relatively new product in the world of Sit/Stand desks, the StandStand was invented by a young Harvard professor by the name of Luke Leafgren as a way to avoid sitting without the investment and bulk of a full fledged standing desk. Designing th first prototypes himself, he soon had a viable product that gained a bit of publicity through its wildly successful Kickstarter campaign.
It’s not all kittens and rainbows when signing up to be a standing desk enthusiast, as Mr. Kravets from ArsTechnica writes in his latest post “Welcome to my Sit-Stand Desk Nightmare“.
The post details the trials and travails of a man who bought a relatively inexpensive standing desk ($599), and proceeded to have issue with the motors that drove the desk lifting mechanism.
All of sudden, as the desk was rising, I heard a cracking sound and realized my computer monitor was about to fall onto the floor. Only the left side was rising. I didn’t immediately notice it. (…) My pimp ride had turned into a nightmare. The left side had risen about five inches higher than the right side.
Most sit-stand solutions have an electric motor that raises and lowers the desk surface. As is the case with all electrical/mechanical devices, sometimes they malfunction or break.
Use this as a cautionary tale–the cheaper you go, the better chance that you’ll have issues later down the road. Also, be very careful when it comes to assembly–if either side is unbalanced it can lead to an uneven work space or degradation of the motors.
There’s a dearth of information cataloging why sitting is bad for you, so one journalist decided to take it to the extreme and give up sitting altogether–for an entire month.
Dan Kois, a writer for New York magazine, decided to be the guinea pig in his own experiment to see how possible a life of no sitting was in this day in age. His tongue-in-cheek article recounts the many hilarious experiences that were a part of his quest to do just that.
I decided to spend a month on my feet: 30 days never being a couch potato, an office slug, a sitting duck. The exceptions, agreed upon with my editor: I would sit to drive (but would strive to take the train); I would sit when nature called. I would also sit to put my shoes on, I decided this morning after falling over trying to put on my shoes. I would lie down to sleep, although I surely wouldn’t need sleep, given that I’d be so healthy.
Read the entire account here.
National Public Radio (NPR) just posted a piece about the dangers of sitting, remarking on a study done by researchers at Northwestern University that concluded:
…each additional hour a day spent sitting increases the risk of becoming physically disabled by about 50 percent — no matter how much exercise they get.
Scary stuff. So, what’s a man or woman to do in order to help prevent these oncoming disabilities? Simple:
Get non-fatiguing activity in as much as possible…that can be as simple as walking around the office, or parking your car at the far end of the parking lot or even just standing up while talking on the phone…
Read more on the NPR web site here.
There’s been a recent spate of articles on treadmill desks recently, including videos featured on Business Insider and Wired.
The general consensus? Mixed reviews. Seems like most people like it, but that walking on a treadmill desk is a bit much if you’re trying to concentrate on something at the same time. Just checking e-mail or surfing the web? A treadmill desk may be right up your alley. (One guy at Business Insider seems to really hate it, but I think that’s pretty extreme–although the maker of the product does recommend a break-in period of about two weeks to get used to it.)
I think that what these videos illustrate is that you shouldn’t rely solely on a treadmill desk though–there should be an alternative nearby for when you get tired or need to concentrate on something without the distraction of having to constantly move your feet. A potentially expensive proposition at around $2000 a pop for an alternative desk, but if you’ve got the money…