Why Walking Is Great and Standing Desks Are Overrated

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Studies show spending several hours sitting in front of a computer is harmful to your health. While standing and treadmill desks have given office workers a way to prevent some of the problems associated with being sedentary, these options aren’t necessarily the perfect solution.

Here, two experts weigh in on the problems associated with these types of desks and suggest better options for combating muscular imbalances and preventing injuries:

THE DOWNSIDE TO STANDING AND TREADMILL DESKS

“Standing desks can be helpful in mitigating some of the postural pains associated with sitting, but they are not a substitute for physical activity,” says Cameron Yuen, certified strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City. What’s more, they can easily create injuries. For example, “an incorrect monitor height can lead to neck strain while incorrect desk height can lead to lumbar hyperextension.” The same is true of treadmill desks, which can force you to look slightly down or cause you to make unnatural movements that are better performed when sitting (such as typing and clicking a mouse).

IF YOU HAVE YOUR HEART SET ON A STANDING DESK …

“A better choice would be a standing desk that can convert to a standard seated desk,” says Yuen. “This allows you to move more throughout the day, which helps increase blood flow to muscles and joints.”

BUT A REGULAR WALK IS STILL YOUR BEST OPTION

To combat the poor ergonomics of standing and seated desks that can increase muscular imbalances and tightness in the back and neck, it’s critical to get up from your desk completely and take regular walking breaks. “Brief walks at regular intervals throughout the day will better improve your blood flow and circulation, and limit muscle tightness,” explains Dan Giordano, doctor of physical therapy and certified strength and conditioning specialist. “There are also new studies that show in addition to these benefits, 5-minute walks throughout the day can improve mood levels and increase cognitive function, making you more productive,” he adds.

Not only can a short walk help energy levels, but studies also show interruption in prolonged sitting can decrease food cravings, which can be great if you’re trying to lose weight.

HOW TO GET STARTED

Walking during the day doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. Here are a few ideas for increasing your step count:

  • Set a reminder and get up every hour, even if it’s only to do a lap around the office.
  • Go for a 20-minute walk outdoors during your lunch hour — spending more time in nature has been shown to decrease mental fatigue and increase productivity.
  • Leave your phone at your desk. One study in Social Psychology found walking without a phone benefits anxiety levels and cognitive performance more than if you carry it with you.

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