Thinking on Your Feet

Standing desks are good for our bodies, but are they good for our minds?

Comments: 42

  1. Talmud students commonly stand at special desks, which resemble lecterns, for hours while they are studying. They also often sway back and forth while standing. It seems likely that this practice developed over the centuries because it aids their thinking. It might be possible to compare their performance with that of similar students who sit while they are studying.

  2. I've been asking the school district to provide some standing desks for my more restless students for years. The students tend to be boys but not always. Thanks for the additional evidence.

  3. Use PVC plastic pipe to raise your tables. 'For years'? What are you waiting for?

  4. Article should state that sitting increases the risk of TYPE 2 diabetes...ugh.

  5. Interesting study. I have been using a pedal-powered computer for almost 8 years and find it very effective at making me feel more alert while working, especially after a meal. Still, it's worth mentioning that as the level of exertion increases, it becomes much harder to accomplish tasks on your computer. I can, for instance, pedal for a couple of hours powering a fully-charged laptop with no loss of productivity. But if the battery is depleted, I have to pedal much harder to recharge it, and can't concentrate on what I'm doing nearly as well.

  6. Nine people? One more and you could b ball. get outta here, statistically.

  7. No doubt Robert, 9 barely constitutes a study. But I've been working at a Treadmill Desk for two years (along with my collegues and I'll never go back to sitting at work. I'm sharp and clear all day and eliminated the old sugar/caffine jolts I used to need to keep going. My sleep quality is greatly improved as a result. Just another antedote I know but I'll bet the farm they could replicate these results with 9,000 people - time will tell.

  8. re standing. Have read that one isn't supposed to eat standing up. Something about not so good for digestion. Kinda rules out the impulse to nibble @3pm so common in offices since that's the low point of the day, energy wise. And the nibbles can also lead to the 3:30pm desk nappy we sneak in like Winnie C. I do find the occasional walkabout stretch is a great help. There's sometime good about a quick chat with other person (s) to retain the human element when doing high pressure work.

  9. Even the most sedentary writer knows that a walk around the block rarely fails to produce some new nugget of possible writing material.

  10. I switched to stand up writing around ten years ago. I have two tall tables designed specifically for writing. Physically, standing for long periods, can be taxing, but I do it on a kitchen floor cushion, which eases the wear and tear somewhat. It's far less hard on the back than sitting. As for productivity, standing or sitting doesn't seem to matter. Writer's block doesn't have any preferences.

  11. Ok, not the same thing exactly, but doesn't this reinforce the old idea that physical education should be daily for students with lots of recess added in. Really, one more math course or coding course or whatever won't do as much for them as running around.

  12. I remember a PBS NewsHour segment about a school that brought in students struggling in math or reading, before the school day started, for 20 minutes on a treadmill or exercise bike. The student immediately went to the target class (math or reading). Achievement went up dramatically compared to control groups. There's tons of research showing the positive effects of exercise on achievement. Related to the article: I retired in June, so can daily indulge the beloved ritual of coffee and news each morning, often for 3-4 hours. Combined with some TV viewing, I was concerned about sitting so much, especially since I am aging and have serious concerns about memory impairment. I bought an exercise bike with a table for my laptop (where I read my news). I pedal for 1.5 to 2.5 hours each day. HUGE difference in mental facilities throughout the day! Placebo or real, I don't care. The improvement in my quality of life is marked, and knowing that I'm doing something for my body is a sweet bonus.

  13. Be interesting to know if the improvements lasted throughout the workday rather than just immediately after the exercise.

  14. I switched to a standing desk several years ago and would echo the other contributors - I feel better, think better and take more short breaks.

  15. What type of under-desk bikes were used? I would like to buy one, but I don't know what to select. If the brand can't be revealed, a description would do.

  16. Lifespan makes a treadmill desk I have and like, and I know they make a bike desk too.

  17. My husband brought home a Treadmill Desk. My daughter started used it every night for her homework. Now that she’s off to college, I’m on the Treadmill Desk all the time - I’m alert and fresh all day while working. YES, its a little harder to type, but not much and I dictate using Dragon Speech to Text. Sitting is a downer…i think better on my feet.

  18. Japanese schools commonly have students stand on taki fumis (half rounds of bamboo) in their bare feet several times during the day. The taki fumis have a hole in them with a string - each student's taki fumi hangs on its own hook by the stuents' names out in the hall. Foot reflexology.

  19. Different question- were the subjects people who usually had office jobs that require these critical skills? It seems hardly likely, since they had to take 5 days off work- what employer would allow that? So, if they are people who are not working right now, perhaps disabled or stay at home moms, does the study have relevance for people who work in an office-type job?

  20. What did those sedentary moms do with their kids for those five days???

  21. This is churlish and misleading. If you don't want to exercise , don't, but challenging for NO REASON is insipid.

  22. I worked more or less for 5 years while using a treadmill desk. I probably did close to 5 miles a day on the thing. I never went more than about 2.3 miles per hour which is a very comfortable pace for me. There is zero question in my mind that I was sharper and more productive and actually able to type faster while walking than while sitting at my desk. The only downside was that I tended to get impatient with people during boring conference calls.

  23. My home treadmill desk is great for doing emails, updating social media profiles, conference calls, webinars, and uploading content and doing electronic grading for my classes. I try to use it whenever possible to help me get my steps counts in even though I get regular workouts. It is not as good *for me* when I have hard copy exams to grade or certain times when I am writing. But, still, it's been awesome.

  24. People will take this study and run with it (literally) but people should keep in mind, this is a very short term brain test. If it were an hour-long set of work tasks (or 4 hours), the results might be totally different. To overachieving Americans I'm sure the idea of being able to get your cardio at your desk sounds like a perfect two-for one. But I bet if you're pedaling or treadmilling (and of course constantly monitoring your heart rate and breathing), I would be surprised if there's not some lost productivity. How about instead of a treadmill at your desk, block out 10 minutes every hour to walk around the office (and even use the stairs) to have face time every day with co-workers. You get a little exercise, a little social stimulation, a little relationship fertilization -- and maybe it even helps you get your work done.

  25. Guaranteed some supervisors/managers would get upset if they see people "not working" for 10 minutes out of every hour. And forbid that activity.

  26. And you'd get a "you're fired" pink slip from me DJ T type! Some bosses don't like people who don't stay "focused".

  27. My treadmill desk was marvelous until I got particularly passionate while writing one e-mail and then ended on my face and on the floor. But, I had pressed send on the e-mail first so everything was fine. My advice: don't let the occasional face-plant stop you from a healthy work environment!

  28. There have been other studies like this, so this is not an isolated result. It could be because light neurological arousal increases focus and retention. I read about this last year, so now include light spinning while reading as part of my workouts, also paired with noise-canceling headphones playing something sedate, non-vocal, like Bach French Suites. I can't guarantee it helps, but...

  29. I’m a 65 yr old retiree. For half of my working life I was afield in Alaska very actively doing fisheries research. A lot of walking and physical work. When I took a ‘sit down’ admin job I fairly quickly developed sciatica, mild hypertension and eventually manifested some what genetically driven type 2 diabetes. Two office innovations: an adjustable stand up desk with a high stool to perch on, and a head phone and mike with a long cord that allowed hands free keyboard work and for me to pace made a huge difference in physical and mental exhaustion especially during the endless DC conference calls.

  30. I have heard about this before and anecdotally agree. For myself, some of my best thinking, solving a knotty problem, is often done walking, mind afire, mentally juggling images. During meetings, I often walk and talk at the same time, rising as I prepare to speak.

  31. Although this study was too short to have large effects, I do remember a Nordic country study on some of their military using late-teen monozygotic twins. Those that engaged in aerobic exercise increase intelligence significantly.

  32. "Maximum Performance" by Leonard Morehouse (PhD Exercise Physiology and the first president of the Ergonomics association, trainer for Olympic athletes and astronauts) in the1970s strongly emphasized that your office should have your files across the room from your desk as should your phone be located across your office unless you were going to just spend 10-15 minutes a day at your desk. Up and moving was for thinking. In 1957, I interviewed 15 of the top scientists in Washington DC, including the head of the Carnegies Institute for Geophysics. He, and they, except when they had to stay in the lab for long periods, worked vigorously for 3-4 hours per day; the first hour was usually the most productive; the next 2-3 were commonly grinding and getting the details down deeply for the unconscious mind to play with; then the rest of the day was walking, golf, bird watching, fishing, rowing and similar activity. Always they carried a note pad and pen for the occasional bursts of insight. Occasionally there were days or even a month or two of wild mind storms and creative outbursts. For most, the hour after awakening or the first settled working hour of the day was the most immediately productive. But physical movement was at the core of their thinking and creating, at planting the seeds for the unconscious mind to grow.

  33. The second test of mental ability after exercise was also given after the sitting volunteers had taken their first test. I'm thinking just the taking of a test makes you smarter for the next test. How does that affect the results?

  34. Jack LaLanne: "Use it , or lose it." There is nothing new under the sun.

  35. Three things: 1. In the context of a sedentary job and then news-addicted retirement, I use a "pomodoro" timer to sit 25 minutes, walk around for 5 or 10 minutes. The house is neater because I have to find things to do during those ten minute "breaks". 2. After years of flying, I finally discovered that it's possible (depending on your body size) to stand up and kind-of stretch, kind-of move on a flight by turning and facing the back of your seat. 3. People in classes and meetings get used to me just standing up for a few minutes in the middle of the meeting.

  36. Forget the under-desk pedaling, and bike to work!

  37. My secretary once told me that she could always find me by tracking the fresh coffee drips that I'd left in the halls while pacing. I've even paced while taking "essay-type" tests (by that I mean taking a couple of minutes to pace in between writing) when allowed. When I'm presented with having to think, my first reaction is to pace.

  38. Anyone who exercises seriously knows how it affects mental acuity. I know it. My experience tells me. These studies are interesting, but will rarely convince anyone to get off the couch.

  39. Under-desk pedals that generate extra energy to supplement the and environmentalism, voila!

  40. the bigger brain and upright, hairless, body, mutli diet, all are chicken and egg feedback loops. Just sitting, breaks the loops

  41. I quite understand, and accept, that exercise is necessary for a healthy life, and I do my stint at the gym three times a week. But I am puzzled about this sitting thing. Research tells me that it is healthy to get adequate sleep. The thing is, I often fall asleep in my reclining chair, feet on a hassock. Now since 6 hours sleep in my chair also qualifies as sitting, am I cancelling out any of the health effects of sleeping? The chair is reclining, so is it possible that the angle of sitting is an important variable that has not been studied? Perhaps the causative agent for harm to cognitive and cardiovascular functions is pressure on the Gluteus Maximus (buttocks), which rises with more upright sitting. Conversely, would I enjoy all the health effects of standing if I were to rig up my computer so that I worked while lying down, in the normal sleep position, which also enjoys a healthful reputation?

  42. I'm led to wonder if being sedentary and overweight effects the quality of ones sitting. Being neither, I find that I rarely sit still and wonder if that helps.