Should you sit or stand at your desk? Use a standing desk or treadmill desk? Outliers gets a bit bewildered by all the advice flowing from studies and health experts on the physical benefits of getting up out of that office chair.
Across the pond, the U.K. has become the first government to issue guidelines, advising deskbound Brits to stand for at least two hours a day, and work up to standing for four hours. The guidelines were developed by a group of experts invited by Public Health England and an advocacy group and were published online this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
“Even if you're meeting your physical activity guidelines, you cannot undo the risks of prolonged sitting,” Gavin Bradley, director of the group Get Britain Standing and one of the authors of the new guidance, told the Associated Press. Bradley, who spoke during a telephone interview while walking, said officials estimate the average U.K. worker sits for more than half of his or her hours on the job.
So is a treadmill desk best? Maybe not for productivity. A recent study published in PLOS One found that treadmill-desk users were much worse at typing than those who were seated, and also scored worse in cognitive tests, including lower scores for memory and concentration.
But Michael Larson, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University who led the study, told the New York Times that the results of the treadmill walkers “remained within what would be considered normal.” With more practice, walking workers could improve, he said.
Bradley, who takes all his calls standing, says curbing the amount of time people spend sitting could have huge benefits, since up to 95% of adults in developed countries are classified as inactive.
“We've sat on this problem for far too long,” he said.