Stand, sit…or move?

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The standing desk.  

If you prefer a taller workstation that allows you to stand up while you write or draw you would be in good company.  Leonardo da Vinci used one, as well as Albert Camus and Virginia Woolf, but is it really so much better than sitting?

It was touted as a solution to our sedentary lifestyles awhile back, but it has never been established that it is actually a better position for prolonged periods.

It is a fact though that many of us have lifestyles where being at a computer or desk is something that we need to spend a lot of time doing.  And we know doing it a whole lot isn’t so healthy.

Stand, sit…or move?

The thing is that you can’t really hope to put yourself in some ideal posture that makes immobility for long periods of time a good thing.  The role of posture in this regard is to give your body some mechanical efficiency.  For example keeping your head squarely over your shoulders is simply more mechanically efficient than craning your neck forward and cantilevering your head out over empty space.

But there’s only so much good posture gets you.  You have to move.

So the key to this whole desk thing is to find ways to move as much as possible while still being in front of your desk.

The desk.

I like the idea of being able to go from standing to sitting really quickly and easily.  How about a monitor mounted on an arm that can be moved up and down?  I just googled it and there’s one for $79.  Looks like you can just mount it to your desk too, don’t even have to have a solid wall behind the desk.  Of course you’ll need a keyboard stand too.  I see I could buy one for $50 to $70…or I could just keep a box under my desk and get it out when I feel like standing up.

Then there’s the chair.  

I know you can spend all kinds of money on a super duper ergonomic magic chair, but again there’s that basic idea we want to keep in mind…there is no magic way to be still, only better ways to move while you do still work.  I kind of like roll-y and spin-y chairs, because I think it’s fun to roll myself around and spin in circles while I’m working.  Of course that’s maybe too childish for the rest of you all because you’re doing serious grown up work…that’s just me.

The other thing I like is a nice flat chair that doesn’t spin and doesn’t have arms, because then I can sit cross legged or sometimes with one knee up to my chest.  A spin-y chair is no good for that because when you take your feet off the ground you’ll start spinning.

And then the other thing I like is the big ball that got popular awhile back, because it made me put my feet flat on the ground…and because I could bounce.  I like bouncing about as much as I like rolling and spinning.

I think if you’re really having to spend a bunch of time at your desk having a few chairs in your room and changing them out every several hours or every half day would be a good idea.

The not so big stuff.

So there’s the big stuff you’ve probably already thought about, but there are some other ideas too.  Does anyone here do that thing where you pinch the phone between your ear and shoulder?  You know there’s just no reason to do that sort of thing anymore.  There are some really great hands free headsets available and if you don’t have one I’d recommend going out and getting one.  I like the kind that you wear like a little collar and you can pull the ear buds out and put them in your ears. Like this:

Then there’s the way you look at the screen. Make sure you can see the screen alright without having to move your head closer.  So, adjusting the font size on your screen or checking your eyeglass prescription could help with any neck pain.  I just googled “adjust font size on Mac” and got all kinds of easy adjustments.

Do you get little reminder flags that pop onto your screen?  You can adjust how and if those things show up in systems preferences.  You can set up a bunch of reminders for yourself, either one that pops up every hour and just says, “Move”, or you could set different reminders throughout the day like “pec stretch time” “leg extension” and whatever your personal stretches are.  Then set them to repeat daily.

And making sure your not reaching toward your keyboard or mouse is helpful. Protracted bouts of reaching (moving your shoulder blade away from your spine) stretch the nerves running down your arm quite a bit and can make your hand numb or your neck muscles tense up in protective ways.

Okay, now we’re getting to the fun part.  What can you do with your legs and feet.  Well, for one you can take your shoes off…wouldn’t that be nice?  or if that’s just too casual you could keep some soft comfortable shoes in your office to change into during desk time.  Not wearing shoes makes it easier to sit cross legged on your armless chair.  It also makes it easier to do the foot exercises.

Things you can do with your feet.  

Get a couple of props. A golf ball (or rock), a towel and a thick book nobody reads (like your companies strategic plan) or a chunk of wood.  Assuming you took your shoes off you can roll your foot around on the golf ball.  This is pleasantly grounding as well as a good way to move your foot bones around.  With the towel just practice grabbing it and scrunching it up with your toes.  This is great for little toe fingers that are trapped in little coffins all day long, they need exercise too.  And with the book or chunk of wood, you can just prop the ball of your foot up on that and leave it there for extending periods of time to help keep your calf muscles lengthened.  Actually there’s tons of stuff you can do.  You could be doing a whole sub desk workout all day long.  Of course it’s distracting, but the the more you practice it the more it becomes habitual movement and no longer needs to occupy your conscious attention.

Okay on to the legs.  

I already mentioned changing sitting position.  A big flat seat without arms is essential for being able to shift from regular sitting to cross legged, to one knee toward chest to sitting on both legs, but the one I want to emphasize is sticking one leg back.  It’s like being in a lunge while in your chair. it’s not possible to do in a chair with arms and yet so needed because a big part of the chair problem is that it keeps your hips in a 90 degree angle all day and that leg extension is sooo good for you.  Do this on one side for awhile then switch to the other side.  You can change from full hip extension to just dropping your knee straight down and pressing the tops of your toes into the floor.  You can also stick your leg out to the side and stretch your inner thigh.

While you’re standing at your desk you can do another one of my all purpose favorite moves and that is just stick your leg back and lift it up a little bit.  You can do this in slow repetitions while you’re thinking about something else.  You can feel your poor smashed gluteals wringing themselves out a bit, and it’s good for practicing balance…can you keep typing while you’re doing this?

And my personal favorite.

Okay, I know this is getting a bit long, but we haven’t got to my personal favorite yet.  I’m bouncing up and down as I type just thinking about it.  You ready?  It’s….the brachiation bar!! (Happy Face)

The break-y what?  Yes, that’s what people usually say, but I’m just not willing to let go of the name and call it a chin-up bar.  It’s just witheringly uncreative.

So, I’m just talking about putting a bar somewhere really close to your work station that you can hang your whole weight on.  You could try to do chin ups if you want, personally I find that a little demoralizing, and it’s got so much more potential than that.  I use mine to hang from with both hands, either letting my body weight hang from my ligaments or engaging my shoulder and/or abdominal muscles and hanging in a stronger way.  If I’m feeling whimp-y I hang with my feet taking some of my weight.  if I’m feeling strong I hang by one arm. I practice lifting both legs to my chest, one leg to my chest one leg straight out, both legs straight out (very hard), or twist my body, or contract one side of my body for a sort of hip hike, the variations seem endless. I also like keeping both feet on the ground and grabbing the bar with one arm and leaning forward (my bar’s only a few inches over my head) for a pec/front of body stretch.

Alright, I hope that gets you going.  Basically fidgeting is not a bad thing, change your position as much as possible.  I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences or any questions.

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