Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians (and normal people)

Confession: I love my Standing Desk

I have a standing desk in my apartment and I love it.  While you may think that musicians don't spend much time at a computer, you'd be surprised how much time can be spent writing emails, writing blogs, wasting time, and so forth.  So last year, when I moved, I decided to ditch my traditional desk and go rogue.  No chairs, no stools, just a high table from Ikea with my desk top computer on top of it.  Although I wasn't sure what I'd think initially, after a year, my consensus is that it can be great and here's why.

Complete with two half domes for stretching my calves, I love my standing desk.

Complete with two half domes for stretching my calves, I love my standing desk.

Since I primarily play in orchestra as my career, I have a certain number of forced hours of sitting, say 3-6 hours most days.  I also drive my car from time to time, so let's factor that into things as well.  I've also sat for 8-12 hours for most of the last 15 years, especially when I had lots of studying and homework in high school.  That's a lot of sitting and habits to undo, and I don't even work at a computer most of the time.  Cumulatively, I have restriction in my hamstrings, calves, hips, and low back as a result.  Standing requires that my hamstrings be in a lengthened position for as long as I'm upright, and I've noticed more range and strength gains in the last year.  While I stand, I also stretch my calves and feet, roll out my feet with YTU balls, and play on a wobble board.  I'm more likely to leave the computer and take a break rather than just stand static the whole time.  I also use the computer less, since standing takes more energy.  I'm less likely to get sucked into staring at my computer for hours on end because I'm not lying down on a couch or bed.  I'm also more aware of how I stand as opposed to sitting, since the couch slouch is so easy to adopt.

Read it!

Read it!

Here's the thing though- I'm only using my computer a few hours a day.  I don't have a computer based job, and I'm not at a workstation all day long.  My body adapted pretty quickly to a few hours of daily standing, but if I had to do it 6 hours a day, I would need a break.  That's why many people advocate for a "dynamic workstation," which is just a fancy way of saying that it's adjustable.  You can stand, sit on a stool, lean, and so forth.  The problem with sitting at a desk is that you're assuming a static position for hours on end, so standing for hours on end isn't the solution either.  We need to change position more often, not assume the same position all of the time, and integrate more movement into our day.  Walks!  Squatting!  Hanging!  It's all good.  So whether that means putting your laptop on the kitchen counter sometimes or sitting on the floor, give it a shot.  Diversify your movement diet, especially when using the computer, and notice how much you sit in a chair.  And obviously, read Katy Bowman's book, "Don't Just Sit There" and learn about how your work environment is affecting your body.

Here are some more articles and light research though, for the more scientifically inclined.  Some studies have shown improvements in mood and energy, some have shown improvements in productivity, and some have shown no improvements whatsoever.  Many of these articles and people miss the big point, which is that humans need to be moving more.  A standing desk can create more movement opportunities for people, and changes the geometry of the body (perpetual sitting) in a good way.

Everything Science Knows About Standing Desks: With all research, take a critical eye to the conclusions.  Are the individuals being asked about day to day pain from sitting?  How about mobility or strength?  Did they transition to standing or try to go cold turkey? 

Standing Up at Your Desk May Energize You, But... Notice that this woman starts by wearing high heels at her stand up desk which pretty much eliminates all of the benefits of standing right away.  In addition, just deciding to stand 6-8 hours a day instead of sit isn't necessarily beneficial either-your body isn't primed to be static for that long in standing, especially without gradual transition. 

Why I Killed My Standing Desk Similar to the lady in the second article, this person moved immediately into standing desks and noticed that he was tired and in pain from standing.  His body had adapted to sitting, so he eventually went back to sitting. 

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