Should Runners Use Standing Desks?
Tyson Sewell | Last updated Aug 4, 2022 | Published on Jul 24, 2022
If you’re a regular runner, or even if you just force out the odd semi-regular jog, you might think that you have no need for a standing desk.
And certainly, keeping active and taking exercise is a great way of offsetting the negative effects of our otherwise sedentary lifestyles. But is running alone enough to keep us healthy? And more to the point, do runners really need to use a standing desk?
In fact, standing desks have some specific and additional benefits for runners. Read on, and we’ll explain all the benefits so you can make an informed choice about whether you need to combine exercise with a standing desk.
Can Exercise And Running Counteract Sitting Damage?
Much has been written about the dangers of sitting for long periods, but before we begin it’s well worth listing out some of the major health implications of prolonged sitting, and the risks of sedentary living.
Our bodies are just not built to be stationary for extended periods, and we are certainly not designed to sit as often and for as long as we do.
Obesity, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes, along with a staggering range of musculoskeletal issues and repetitive strain injuries are all linked to spending too much time sitting.
The reason sitting is so bad for us is thought to be because of the effect it has on our metabolism. When not activated, as is the case if we sit all day, the metabolism slows. This inhibits our bodies ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and to break down body fat.
This, in turn, contributes to an increased risk of the nastier sounding health issues listed in the paragraph above. Regular exercise like running will of course help to offset some of this. At the very least, running burns more calories than sitting or standing, so will help with weight gain and related health issues.
And being active in between bouts of sitting will kick start the metabolism to an extent, helping to at least manage the damage done. Running and exercise also promote good circulation and are good for the heart, and can of course help to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.
The best medicine is prevention, but many of us have already been sitting at work for many years and may already be experiencing bad health to some extent. So whether it’s weight gain, muscle aches and pains, or something more serious and deep rooted, can the damage be undone?
Can You Reverse Years Of Sitting?
Thankfully, the answer is yes, in most cases. Before we begin this section though, we should point out that it is important to consult a health professional if you have (or suspect) a serious health issue like heart disease or diabetes.
The best way of reversing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, quite predictably, is to adopt a less (or if possible not at all) sedentary lifestyle. But in the modern world, where a huge percentage of us are forced to work in offices, is this really possible?
Again, the answer is yes. Firstly, regular exercise will work wonders. Persevering through the first few months is always the most difficult part, but once you’re in the swing of it you’ll begin to see many health benefits, and an uptick in physical and mental energy.
If you’re already a regular runner and you’re reading this though, you already knew that. Yet you’re still reading this article. That’s probably because you’re starting to realise that sitting all day and exercising in bursts at the beginning or end of the day is still not quite cutting it.
How Much Should I Exercise To Counteract Sitting All Day?
It is sometimes said that as little as 30-40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day is enough to offset the negative effects of sitting, but many health professionals consider this to be misleading.
A short workout can certainly help to burn calories not burned during the day, and of course will have benefits to cardiovascular fitness. It will also help to boost endorphin levels and hopefully help you maintain a positive outlook.
But of course, the more time outside of work you can dedicate to working out or running, the more pronounced the benefits will be.
But although pre or post work exercise diminishes the ill effects of sitting to an extent, it cannot truly compensate for the metabolism idling all day. Nor is it of any real use when it comes to muscular issues, joint problems or RSI’s. In fact, if you’ve developed any one of these problems, you will know that they are a big impedence to taking regular exercise.
The hard facts of the matter are, no matter how much exercise you get outside of work hours, there will always be downsides related to sitting all day. If you want to be 100% you are not doing yourself harm, you need to change how you work to make sure your body is active, your muscles are working and your system is fired throughout the day.
Benefits Of Standing Desks For Runners
Reduces Strain On The Hips
Many runners report tight hip flexors, which can not only have the effect of shortening the stride, but can ultimately contribute to a range of leg and back injuries.
The hip flexors can tighten if you adopt a sitting position for long periods.
If the movement of the hip flexors is restricted, force is transferred through the body and can lead to pinching in the lower back, and associated injury and pain.
The best way to stop your hips tightening up is to keep them moving during the day.
Standing desks allow you to vary your position regularly, but have the added benefit of strengthening the muscles which support your hips and back.
Loosens Muscles And Joints
Of course, anyone whose spent a long time sitting knows it’s more than just your hips which can tighten up if kept in the same position all day.
Building movement into your work day will benefit nearly every muscle group by helping you distribute the strain more evenly, resting muscle groups and joints which bear your weight in the seated position. Adjustable standing desks are designed to make this as easy as possible.
Helps Prevent IT Band Syndrome
The thorn in many a runners side, IT band syndrome is caused when the ligaments in the leg tighten, causing the IT band to rub on the thigh bone.
Strengthening the glutes is one of the best ways of preventing IT band injuries and pain, and standing can play a role in keeping strengthening the glute and leg muscles. Unlike fixed desks, standing desks can easily be used in conjunction with an exercise ball, which will help strengthen these muscles further.
Helps Build Strength
You might not think that standing would do much for your strength, but in fact you’d be wrong. Even if the work done and therefore the gains to be expected, might seem very minimal vs weight training or even running, a standing desk will allow you to work those muscles when they’d otherwise be idle.
Your body works constantly to support your bodies weight when standing, using muscles in the legs, hips, back and neck. If you stand for only a quarter of your work day, over a week that’s maybe an extra 10 hours low intensity strength training. Not bad.
Improves Posture And Strengthens The Core
Perhaps more important is the actual muscle groups standing develops. Standing desks are great for strengthening the core and postural muscles, which support your body and help to prevent neck, back and leg injuries.
A strong core is vital if you’re going to run long distances or want to beat those PB’s, and especially so for runners. And good posture contributes to the holy grail of running: perfecting your form.
Makes You A Better Runner
Which leads to our next point – all of the above could actually improve you as a runner. The better your posture is, the better your running form will be.
So using that time you would otherwise be idle to improve your posture and your core strength will add up to better form, longer distances, and better times.
Speeds The Metabolism
As we covered earlier, long periods sitting slows the metabolism, negatively impacting the bodies ability to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar. This increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.
Building standing into your daily routine can help kick-start the metabolism and keep it firing during the day, helping offset the risks. Using a standing desk alongside regular exercise will not just help stack up the benefits: more importantly, you’ll no longer be exercising just to undo the damage, so you’ll see much more improvement in your overall health.
Aids Weight Loss
If you’re running regularly, it’s very possible that you have at some point (like most of us) struggled with weight gain. Standing burns more calories than sitting, with one study suggesting standing for 8 hours would burn 170 calories more than sitting.
So if you stand up for a half hour every hour, that’s an extra 425 calories (so roughly one small meal) burned in a working week. Coupled with a speedier metabolism, which helps the body burn calories faster, a combined with a healthy lifestyle, it could be the marginal gain you’re looking for.
Boosts Energy Levels
Sitting makes us feel sluggish, due to a combination of, well, all of the above. And every runner knows how hard it can be to drag yourself out after a long day sat at your desk. You’re tired, stressed, your legs feel heavy, and the sofa is beckoning.
Using a standing desk has been shown to boost energy levels, making that transition from work to exercise as painless as possible.
Reduces Pain In Neck, Back And Legs
Runners know that your body can take a beating on the road, and we all carry aches and pains from time to time. The legs, neck and back can all suffer – especially if our posture and form are slightly off.
The last thing you need is to be either aggravating an existing niggle, or giving yourself a whole new one, from sitting all day. Standing desk users report reduced pain in neck, back and legs, which will help you to keep as pain free as possible.
Tips For Runners To Use A Standing Desk Correctly
Change Position Frequently
To prevent stiffness in muscles and joints which can be carried into your exercise routine, it is important to vary your position frequently, and alternate between sitting and standing as often as is practical.
If you’re new to the desk, it’s ok to spend more time sitting at first. Even if you run frequently, standing uses slightly different muscles. So it’s to be expected it might be tiring at first. The important thing is to not spend too long either sitting or standing in one stint, and to change at least once an hour if possible.
Be Mindful Of Your Posture and Positioning
If you want to keep you your neck, back and even arms and legs injury free, good posture at your desk is even more important for runners.
Running already places a lot of strain on these muscle groups for one thing, so you don’t want to risk injury. But also, maintaining good posture will strengthen the postural and core muscles and help you keep good form on the track.
Keep your back straight when standing, and position your desk so your arms are level with your keyboard when bent at 90 degrees (with your elbows by your side). Your eyes should be level with roughly the top of the monitor.
You will need to experiment a bit to find what’s most comfortable for you, but keep to these principles and you should be roughly there.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Running can definitely make your feet sore – but so can standing. It might sound obvious, but making sure you wear comfortable footwear at your desk is a must. Keeping your feet in good condition and pain free will aid both your running and your work.
We hope this article has answered any questions you had about whether you need to use a standing desk if you’re a regular runner. Standing desk’s can be of real benefit to runners, and not just because they double down on the general health benefits.
Standing desks can aid in the battle against running injury, strengthen the core and supportive muscles we need to run, and even improve your running as a result. If you’re thinking of building exercise into your 9-5 as well as your leisure time, check out our full range of standing desks today.
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