Get Down

When it comes to health and fitness, people want simple solutions: sitting is bad, so get a standing desk instead. Problem solved.

Except that the human body is complex, so most simple solutions don’t actually work in the real world. Prolonged periods of standing in a single position often create nearly as many problems as prolonged sitting in a single position.

To understand this better, consider nutrition: kale is healthful, but a diet of just kale isn’t. Instead, to optimize your diet, you need to ‘eat a rainbow,’ trying to get a variety of different foods of every color, because different colored foods contain different vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals: lycopene in red foods, anthocyanin in purple/blue, carotenoids like betacarotene in orange/yellow, etc. You need them all, and so your diet needs to be sufficiently varied.

So, too, with movement. Thus, the answer isn’t just a standing desk, or any other tool or gadget. Instead, it’s making sure that you sit and move in the broadest number of ways that you can.

Perhaps you’re at a traditional desk. Sure, you can sit in your chair. But you can also do a stretch of work kneeling on the seat.

Or perhaps you’re at a standing (or, even better, convertible) desk. There, you can spend part of your time with one foot on the floor and the other up on a chair, and then, after a bit, you can switch feet.

And, either way, you can also do some work (say, taking a call) seated on the floor. That’s a great way to watch TV, too: planted on the carpet in front of your couch. Try sitting in different ways – cross-legged, side-saddle, legs in front of you. With any of those, you also practice getting down to and back up from the ground, a skill that’s highly associated with decreased all-causes mortality.

You can try eating a meal with your family on the floor, as a picnic on the carpet. You can read a book while laying on the ground on your stomach, or your side. You can even flout good manners in the name of health, and climb up on your desk or table.

But across all those possibilities, the underlying strategy remains: get creative, and explore as many ways to sit and stand and move as you possibly can. Each will challenge your strength, mobility, balance, and posture, and expand your body’s ability to perform in and handle the stresses of the world.