One of the most common questions we get at WorkWhileWalking is “How much better is it to use a treadmill desk than just using a standing desk?”
Both standing desks and walking desks are enjoying an explosion in adoption, especially in corporate America and SOHO (small office/home office) usage. Both provide the same key benefit of reducing the hours you spend sitting, which is the real killer. The latest medical evidence shows that an hour of sitting is as detrimental to your health as smoking a cigarette. But that’s where most of the similarities end.
While standing desks and walking desks are terrific implements for the sedentary worker’s battle against sitting disease it’s actually the combination of the two that is going to yield the best results. Read on…
The preponderance of medical experts and scientists who study biomechanics and metabolism feel that standing is much better than sitting, however there are downsides even to standing that should be considered as well. Too much standing without movement can lead to back injuries (especially if spending many hours standing in high heels) including muscle strain and increased pressure on the spinal discs, increased stress on the heart and foot pain. There’s plenty of information on the web about the common afflictions of those who stand on their feet all day like retail and factory workers who stand in a small area and rarely make long strides. Too much standing without movement also increases the risk of varicose veins and carotid artery disease. Some academic researchers have gone so far as to say that standing all day may actually be worse for you than sitting all day although we won’t get in the middle of that skirmish.
From a common sense point of view we know that we evolved as a species to move in an upright position, not to sit in chairs or to stand in one place for extended periods of time glaring at a computer screen. Watching Animal Planet while sitting on the sofa is not the same thing as chasing down a rabbit for your dinner.
There is vast evidence that important biological functions virtually shut down when we are idle and that our caveman DNA takes over and tells the body to switch from “on the hunt” mode to “not on the hunt mode” and do things like store more of what we eat as fat.
Anyone who has ever had to staff a trade show booth knows that standing on your feet all day hurts a lot more than walking the aisles all day as an attendee. Walking slowly throughout the day boosts your energy level, sooths joints and muscles, and keeps your metabolism revved up at a healthier level. If you have worked a booth all day then you probably also experienced how good it felt to take a break and walk around the exhibit hall for a while. Imagine this same difference but on every day of your working life.
The most common misconception about treadmill desks is that their only purpose is for weight loss. This is the unfortunate consequence of numerous book titles, articles and advertisements from treadmill desk manufacturers who focus too much on this aspect. The fact is the majority of treadmill desk users are fit, healthy middle-age people who want to stay fit and healthy, and they know that sitting in a chair all day will eventually lead to a slowing metabolism, higher cholesterol and triglycerides, higher blood pressure, weight gain, and in increasing incidence, Type II diabetes.
At WorkWhileWalking, we preach your best position is your next position. The very best advice we can give is to switch it up all day. Sit when you must, walk when you can, and stand in between. If you spend roughly a third of your day in each of these three positions you will be optimizing your health. The good news for treadmill deskers is that merely stopping the motor will convert their workstation to a standing desk, a two-for-one deal.