[Transcript] – The Ultimate Guide To Standing vs. Sitting, Anti-Fatigue Mats, Standing Desks, Sitting Myths & More!

Affiliate Disclosure


Podcast from: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/01/standing-vs-sitting/

[01:09]  Kimera Koffee

[01:33] Organifi Green Juice- Fitlife

[02:52] Four Sigmatic

[04:18] Onnit

[05:38] Introduction

[08:12] About Josh Kerst

[09:57] What It Means to be an “Active Couch Potato”

[09:57] A Study on Athletes That Found They Can Actually Be More Sedentary Than The Average Office Worker

[13:06 & 0:14:32.4] Workplace Positions That Trigger a Gene Which Restricts your Ability to Recover and Drops your HDL

[17:01] How Long You Would Need to be Sitting for the Dangers of Sitting to Begin Kicking In

[19:57] How a Dangerous Response called the “Compensation Effect” Can Kick In if You Exercise at the Beginning of the Day, and What You Can Do About It

[28:14] Why a Standing workstation Can Actually Hurt Your Shoulders, Elbows and Wrists

[32:39] Why You Should Use a “stool” to Your Standing Workstation Setup

[34:37] Ideas for Creative Positions You Can Work In Aside from Standing, Walking or Sitting

[42:16] On Standing Mats

[48:26] What The Speaker Will Incorporate Into The Ultimate Active Office

[59:12] End of podcast

Ben:  Hey, folks, it’s Ben Greenfield and to start off today’s show I wanna give you a recipe.  That’s right.  I wanna give you a recipe.  This recipe requires coffee, so if you don’t drink coffee then you may wanna press fast forward or just step away and go drink your sparkling water or your kombucha with kale, or your coca-cola as that’s gonna kill you by the way.  You should drink coffee.

Anyways, this stuff is called Orchard Brew.  Orchard Brew.  What you do is you take a cup of coffee, could be cold or hot and you take a dash of orange zest.  If you don’t know how to make orange zest just goggle that or just like peel the little pieces of the outside of an orange for that flavorful orange zest.  Wash it first, for crying out loud.  What you do is you put the zest in with the coffee grounds, you put the zest in with the coffee grounds.  Is that blowing your mind?  And then you just brew like the way that you would normally brew whether it’s an Aeropress or a French press or a regular percolator coffee machine or whatever, and then you drink away this citrusy goodness.  So check that out.  And that little recipe is brought to you by the sponsor of today’s show, Kimera Koffee.  You can check out Kimera Koffee at k-i-m-e-r-a k-o-f-f-e-e.  Kimera Koffee with a K and when you go to kimerakoffee.com, you can use discount code Ben to get 10% off and to try that little orange zest trick that I just taught you.  You’re welcome.

This podcast is also brought to you by Organifi.  Not to be confused with WiFi.  WiFi is bad for you.  Organifi is good for you.  So Organifi is this stuff that allows you to make green juice without a juicer.  So you don’t have like a mess to clean up, you don’t have to try to get the juicer, you don’t have to shove stuff into the juicer that won’t go in no matter how hard you push, and then it comes out and it blasts all over your face and then you get green in your eyebrows before you get to work, and it’s embarrassing.  No instead, it’s all right there in the powder stirred into water, mixed into a smoothie whatever you want and like the list is enormous.  It’s incredible.  Chlorella, spirulina, mint, beet, matcha, wheatgrass, ashwagandha, turmeric, lemon, coconut extract, a bunch of stuff and it’s even sweetened with monk fruit.  Monk fruit is a very low glycemic index sweetener but the sweetness is about a hundred and seventy five times greater than sugar.  So it actually tastes really, really good.  It doesn’t taste like this (snap, snap, snap).  You know what I mean.  So you can check this stuff out when you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/organifi and you get not five, not ten but twenty percent off with the discount code mentioned there.

This podcast is also brought to you by the same stuff I have been using this entire winter cold and flu season to keep myself from getting sick.  I haven’t gotten sick once, not once.  Have you heard me sniffling on a podcast ever?  No, you haven’t because I have been using this stuff called chaga.  Chaga c-h-a-g-a.  You can goggle it if you wanna know what I mean coz everybody knows you can trust the internets and the goggle machine.  Or you could PubMed it if you want to, I suppose.  A chaga mushroom extract though has incredible benefits for your immune system.  I have a little bit every day.  I typically have it in the afternoon when I wake up.  Sometimes I put a packet in my coffee in the morning and even though I hang around with kids and farm animals like my goats and my chickens and other people, god bless them but there are other people on airplanes and buses and stuff like that, I don’t get sick.  I use chaga.  So check it out.  You can use the same chaga that I use if you go to foursigmafoods.com/greenfield that’s foursigmafoods.com/greenfield, and the name of this stuff is Four Sigmatic Chaga.  You get 15% off of your chaga when you use discount code Ben Greenfield.  That’s 15% off with discount code Ben Greenfield, and again the URL you gotta go to is foursigmafoods.com/greenfield.

I’m not done yet.  I got one more for you.  We are also brought to you by Onnit.  Onnit.  O-n-n-i-t dot com, you can go to onnit.com/bengreenfieldonnit.com/bengreenfield and do I have something tasty for you to try when you go there.  This is a new one.  I just got a box of it this week and I love it.  It tastes especially great if you put a banana on top of it.  I don’t know why and I’m not saying that that’s necessarily the lowest calorie thing on the face of the planet but it tastes like freaking crunchy ambrosia is this stuff called Oat Mega Chocolate Peanut Crisp Protein Bar.  Oat Mega Chocolate Peanut Crisp Protein Bar.  Its non-GMO, it’s gluten-free, it’s only got 5 grams of sugar, it’s got 7 grams of fiber.  It’s really tasty.  Chocolate check, peanut butter check, I mean it’s even got like Omega 3 supplements in it.  It’s got fish oil on it but it doesn’t taste fishy.  It’s really interesting.  So these are called Oat Mega Bars.  You can check those out and anything out from Onnit, out when you go to onnit.com/bengreenfield that’s onnit.com/bengreenfield.  That’ll automatically like magic and save you 10% off.  Now on to today’s episode about standing.  Stand up!  Let’s do this.

In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:

“What they found is when you’re sitting it is suppressed and so this LPP1 is impacted by exercise but the really scary part is that it’s sensitive to sitting but resistant to exercise.  So the best ergonomic position, the absolute best one is always your next one.”  “Since 1960 the number of jobs that involves sort of sedentary activity have increased by a whopping 83%, nearly half of all the jobs that are out there for us who spend our day in the office don’t involve a whole lot of activity.”

Ben:  Hey, folks it’s Ben Greenfield here and it’s actually been over 5 years since I personally adapted the habit of frequently alternating positions throughout my work day.  I have a video on Youtube that a lot of people seem to have watched called “How Should You Stand At A Standing Desk?”  I recorded a podcast recently about this idea of standing on memory foam and using this different kind of mats under your desk, and my own personal office that I’m in right now is like this tiny playground.  It’s littered with kettle bells, and a pull-up bar, and a boxing bag, and a treadmill workstation, and a variety of different standing surfaces.  The one that I’m standing on right now is actually an acupressure mat which is a mat that has all these little pokey things coming out of it and I’ve wrapped it around like one of these square foam mats, and so I’m getting acupressure therapy on my feet as I’m podcasting, isn’t that cool?  But I just can’t get enough of this stuff.  So today I’m interviewing a guy named Josh Kerst and Josh mans the helm of one of the most innovative standing workstation companies on the face of the planet that makes extremely cool-looking and very functional furniture for offices, and for the whole standing workstation environment.  His company’s called Focal Upright.  Josh is actually the Executive Vice-President of Focal Upright Furniture.  He is himself a certified nerd.  He holds a BSE in Industrial Engineering.  He’s a certified professional ergonomist which is something that we’re going to get into today.  This whole concept of workplace ergonomics and everything from carpal tunnel to how far away your monitor should be from your face whether you’re sitting or standing.  He’s a certified industrial ergonomist and he is a member of the ANSI Office Sitting Committee, I have no clue what that is but it does sound impressive.  So, Josh welcome to the show.                

Josh:  Oh, Ben it’s a pleasure to be here, you know.  I think of myself as an ergonomics geek and also an avid health enthusiast, sailor, sometimes tennis player and my newest passion is stand-up paddle boarding so I’d like to shed a little light on this whole topic of inactivity and what’s up with sitting.   

Ben:  Well, have you created the stand-up paddle boarding desk yet? 

Josh:  Working on that.  Trust me as chronic designer it’s in the wings.    

Ben:  I could just imagine that you’ve got a little [0:09:27.1] ______ maybe like a Kindle on it coming up from your paddle board and you can be out in the sunshine on the ocean.  There probably have to be some waterproofing involved, but I’d buy one of those I can tell you.    

Josh:  Even that far (chuckles). 

Ben:  So (chuckles) anyways, before we started recording today’s show you actually used this really cool term that I think really encompasses a big issue that I see out there in active people, in athletes and in exercise enthusiasts and that’s this concept of an active couch potato.  An active couch potato.  And you were telling me about this study in English premier league players that looked at these folks who are athletes but also lived rather sedentary lives off the field.  Can you get into what that study looked at and also what this term active couch potato actually means?       

Josh:  Yeah, absolutely.  So full transparency active couch potato term actually came from Genevieve Healy an Australian from University of Queensland.  It’s really a term to describe those of us who otherwise have active outside of the office activities that we do.  We might need a recommended exercise guidelines, but we spend long periods of time sitting down and that’s actually an increasing number of us since 1960.  In my lifetime, the number of jobs that involves sort of sedentary activity have increased by a whopping 83%.  That means that nearly half of all the jobs that are out there for us who spend our day in the office don’t involve a whole lot of activities.  So when we look at active couch potato, there is sort of this concept of maybe I can exercise my way out of this problem, and there was a recent study that was actually looked at by Dr. Richard Weiler.  He’s a physician for a premier league football club.  He’s also an adviser to the UK British Paralympic Squad and what they looked at is what is the real factor if I spend a whole bunch of time exercising and spending time on the pitch, and what do I do on the time that I’m not on the pitch, and what they found was pretty shocking.  So the uncomfortable truth is there was about 79% of the time when they weren’t on the pitch that folks we’re spending their non-training time.  These otherwise very active people they were spending it at sedentary states and so what happens…            

Ben:  And these are professional footballers, right?

Josh:  Absolutely, you know the best of the best and what they’re finding is there’s very little research in this area and so what Dr. Weiler finds is that there’s far greater time spent inactive than those that weren’t even athletes.  And so where’s the impact of that on recovery and heaven forbid, what happens when these guys retire, you know?    

Ben:  Yeah, and I’ll put the full link to the PDF for that study in the show notes.  You can go over to bengreenfieldfitness.com/standmorebengreenfieldfitness.com/standmore will get you access to all the show notes as well as that particular study.  But it really was interesting like these dudes were professional athletes out destroying their body on the field but then the amount of sedentary time that they engaged in was as much as or greater than the average person who wasn’t a professional athlete.  What does that mean from a health standpoint?  What happens?          

Josh:  Yeah, so there’s actually two things that happen, right?  So one of them is that we think we can exercise our way out of this problem and it turns out there’s yet another, I am a geek, so there is another researcher out there, Dr. Mark Hamilton.  So he’s down at Louisiana State and he’s actually identified this key gene and I won’t get too technical but it’s called LPP1.  Basically, that gene helps prevent the start of the blood clotting and inflammation.  It keeps your cardiovascular system healthy.  What they found is when you’re sitting it’s suppressed, and so this LPP1 is impacted by exercise but the really scary part is that it’s sensitive to sitting but resistant to exercise.  So we really have to be concerned I think for our health that we just can’t exercise our way out of this we have to think of this as the holistic aspect.  What are we doing in the bounds of the day?  What are we putting in our body and how are we spending our day?

Ben:  This LPP gene and I’ll put a link to that study as well in the show notes, I noticed that that one is particularly responsible for I believe decreasing the slowing of blood flow.  And so, when you’re sitting for long periods of time and then you stand up and you begin moving, so you go to do your crossfit WOD at the end of the day after like 8 hours of sitting, it would mean that not only are you getting fewer of the metabolic benefits of standing and being active during the work day but because of that drop in blood flow, would you theoretically be at a higher likelihood of having like a cardiovascular event or any other like oxygen or nutrient delivery issues associated with low blood flow in that work out that you do at the end of the day?        

Josh:  Yeah, absolutely and it’s not just about that it’s the recovery, the whole aspect of recovery.  So you hit the nail right on the head.  So it turns out it works in combination with this other aspect which is a lipoprotein called lipase and that’s an enzyme.  And so I think of that as, I don’t know if you’ve ever played Pacman but it’s like the little Pacman eating the dots.  It’s the vacuum cleaner for fat in our blood stream, and so when we move and he’s coined this phrase the LIPA or low intensity physical activity.  It’s where it just chomps away at those fats and what we find is that when we’re actually not active that lipase activity drops.  It drops.  It’s virtually non-existent.  It’s a 90 to 95% reduction, so that’s a 75% reduction, and the ability of the muscles to remove these sort of noxious fats from our blood stream.  And then unfortunately, there’s also this decrease in the good cholesterol that we’re all looking for, that HDL, right?           

Ben:  Really, so HDL will drop if you’re spending long periods of time sitting?      

Josh:  Yeah, and just a few hours of sitting suppresses that gene that helps our cardiovascular system maintain that healthy aspect, and we wanna control inflammation that’s our body’s natural defense against injury.  And so the worrying thing is after a day of sitting, exercise doesn’t seem to turn the genes back on.  Again, it’s sensitive to sitting and resistant to exercise.    

Ben:  Interesting.  So in terms of the amount of time that it would take to say like suppress that LPP gene or to suppress lipase or to say drop HDL, how long a period of time are we talking about?  Are we talking about like 2 hours spent sitting, 8 hours, like how long do you actually have your butt planted in a chair?   

Josh:  Yeah, that’s a great question.  So the negative impact starts happening pretty quickly.  We see in a few minutes the trend starting to happen and when people start to exceed 2 hours a day or 2 hours of non-stop exposure then that really kicks in.  Now we compare that to what sort of a data is of how much time people really spend sitting.  The latest information we have is that we think of ourselves as we’re actually professional sitters.  We spend about 64 hours a week sitting.  I’ll do the math for you.  It’s 9 hours a day we spend a small amount of time standing and milling about, so it is just a few hours of that sitting can really put our whole system in a detriment and it takes a lot again to resist that sensitivity to sitting and to overcome it.  That’s where this low intensity physical activity.  Thinking about doing a little over a long period of time rather than trying to do a whole bunch at the end or at the beginning of the day.         

Ben:  So that’s 2 hours of consistent, prolonged sitting during the day but if you were to break that up, if you were to even break like 8 hours of sitting up with frequent breaks, that would at least ensure you were not sitting for up to 2 hours.  You could eliminate a lot of this damage that would occur from sitting.    

Josh:  Yeah, Ben you nailed it.  Absolutely.  So that’s sort of the newest message the recommendation, get up.  You shouldn’t have to call your doctor, your CF, getting off your (censored) is right for you.  I think you really have to think about getting up every 30 minutes that we find in the data, that 20 to 30 minutes of prolonged sitting or inactivity of any manner is really the limit.  And if we can get up a couple of times an hour, we’re gonna use the word transitions, and if listeners only remember one thing from this podcast may it be the next step which is the best ergonomic position.  The absolute best one is always your next one. 

Ben:  Yes, that’s like the best workout is the one you’re not doing, that whole idea of specific adaptation to impose demands.  That’s really interesting.  I’ve never thought about it that way but it is true that even right now I’m standing on this silly little mat while I’m talking to you, but probably the best position for me to be in is kneeling, right? Or maybe leaning against my stool.

So you’ve got this research that you mentioned to me again before we started recording that was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in which they talked about what happens to people during the day when they’ve exercised.  And I thought this was really interesting.  Now, I’m not a morning exercise guy.  I tend to do more of my hard exercise at the end of the day but I know a lot of people who start their day with a 4 or a 5 or a 6am Crossfit WOD or a bike ride or something like that.  Can you explain what this research actually found?               

Josh:  Yeah, so what they found and this was at Illinois State University, found that people are actually when they exercise that the bounds of their day, their 30% less active over all on days when they exercise versus days that they don’t hit the gym.  And so, again there’s been a term other than active couch potato, and they use this term called compensation effect.  That “Maybe I’ve done enough for the day.  I deserve something or I don’t need to really continue on.”  And you know, what they found is that those harmful biological signals are not enough for us to continue.  I look at it this way.  My [0:21:22.5] _______ Nana lived ‘til she was 93 in a brownstone, and every time I just say her name and I immediately smell ravioli coming from her kitchen, right?  I remember after we would eat, we would take a walk around the neighborhood, right?  And that was part of the whole benefit of after you eat that you exercise.  You can cut your glucose levels in half in as little as 30 minutes.  So make no mistake, it’s good to exercise and it’s to be active especially after you eat but if you have one of those stand up desks, if you are going to exercise, what they found is it’s definitely better after you eat and to get that activity going, but to continue on the rest of the day.  You’re not to succumb to the trap of that compensation effect as it were because it’s a holistic aspect.  It’s what we do with our body.  What we put in our body that makes the difference.             

Ben:  I’ve been certainly pulled into that myself on those rare occasions when I do a hard workout at the beginning of the day to justify that by either sitting more, or also I know that compensation effect applies to eating as well by eating more.  And even I know a lot of folks who do intermittent fasting, I’ve looked at their diets and even plugged some of those diets into these calorie calculators, and some folks who for example skip breakfast and pat themselves in the back for intermittent fasting, they go ape nuts at dinner and they wind up instead of eating say, 800 calories with dinner consume 1500 with dinner and it’s kind of a wash.  And it seems like the same thing can happen with exercise or you do that really difficult, say 40 minute WOD at 6am, you shower, you head to the office and then you pat yourself on the back that you just went to the pain cave and back that morning.  So you sit from 8am ‘til noon not moving, being hyper productive because hey, you already worked out.            

Josh:  Yeah, so that’s perhaps why we’re seeing this 30% greater than the non-athletes and those are the days that you don’t exercise.  So I think it’s a message.  There’s this huge emphasis now on technology and the idea of fitbits and all those things to help remind us.  I just try and remember that our body has an unnatural fitbit it’s called proprioception, and the more we can be in tune with that then the more we can take the day as a whole and not just do it in huge bursts.  But again the word is balance and just like anything else if the best posture is always your next one and if you can find a way in your office to keep that movement going.  Listen, the last that thing I wanna do after a big workout is tighten my hip flexors and compress my lower back and get my oxygenated blood flow down.  I wanna keep that going.  And so that’s where that low intensity physical activity really is the magic.               

Ben:  Right, exactly.  And I like what you mentioned about these reminders versus like listening to your body’s own clues like your own proprioceptive cues that it might be time to change position.  When I used to do Ironman Triathlon I initially would set a little clock on my stopwatch during the race to beep every 15 to 20 minutes to remind me to drink or to remind me to eat or take my electrolyte capsules.  And I eventually got to the point after a couple of years of racing to where I was able to listen to my body.  I knew when it was time to drink.  I knew when it was time to eat.  I would be able to tell you almost to the minute when 15 or 20 minutes had gone by, and I think that that should be everybody’s aspiration, would be yeah, maybe initially you need one of these apps like I think there’s one called Work Break or Stretch Time like that.  You could go goggle stretching apps, and maybe I could put a few links for folks in the show notes but there are these apps that would just like pop up at certain frequencies to remind you to hey, take a break.  Pomodoro technique.  Go whatever, 55 minutes on and 7 minutes off, whatever the time period is.  But I think that ultimately for you to really be clued in to your body that you should get to the point and this is what I personally do, right?  I don’t use any of those timers or any of those work break apps.  I just, no.  I listen to my body and when it’s time to switch position when something’s feeling fatigued or tight or I feel I’ve got joints locked or something is starting to hurt, I switch positions.           

Josh:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think the key that I found in my personal experience as an ergonomist back in the 90s, I was the guy who outfitted this entire staff with sit-to-stand desks and I looked around and after the new shiny-ness was worn off, very few people were standing in.  It is something that you have to initially set a reminder for and I think that’s what led me to a sort of a new design form factor which is halfway between sitting and standing which is literally what I’m calling a stand-assist or a way to keep that motion going.  I like the benefits of thinking on my feet.  I like the 10 to 15% oxygenated blood flow that happens.  I like not being sad and depressed in a chair in my office.  I like those feel good hormones and I like it when they reach my brain and just wanna make sure it’s all in balance because standing gets tiring, and I think that’s why the whole idea of coming up with some alternatives to shift that posture around is really important.           

Ben:  Yeah, I’ve got another question for you about shifting posture around.  Before I do that, for those of you listening in, I did find a very recently published article on twelve different apps that will remind you to take a break and when to take a break when you’re at work, and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes if you want it.  If you wanna start by getting an app because like I mentioned you may need to initially have that reminder.  So I’ll put a link to that article over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/standmore.

But my question for you now, Josh is my back hurts a lot less now that I use a standing workstation or a treadmill workstation.  I’ll do some lunging.  I’ll do some kneeling.  I’ll lie down on my stomach sometimes.  Lie down on my back sometimes and occasionally I’ll even sit but my primary position really is standing at a standing workstation.  That’s probably about 60 to 70% of my work time.  I found that even though my back hurts less, my wrists and my elbows actually hurt more and I’m curious, I’m totally kinda looking for I guess a free personal consultation while I have you on my podcast.  What would you say as an ergonomist to that?  What do you think would cause someone at a standing workstation to have like shoulder or elbow or wrist pain?             

Josh:  Yes, so full transparency I’m a University of Michigan guy, so I look towards this university down south of me, it’s the Ohio State University.  It pains me to say that, Ben but actually for some data on this Dr. Bill Marras in the Spine Research Institute is doing some great work on this.  What they’ve found actually is that after about 20 to 30 minutes of standing our body actually tries to get support in different ways so we move our feet.  We might actually find something called a kyphotic response so our shoulders start hunching forward and we inadvertently rest our hands and our wrists and our elbows on a flat work surface.        

Ben:  Yeah. 

Josh:  What we see is we’re able after a period of time to create a more lordotic position and for the listenership, lordotics is basically your shoulders pitched behind your hips kinda think the position of those grateful dead bears, leaning back, I’m a sailor so it’s kinda like hiking out.  That real shift opens up the spine and actually helps reduce spinal stenosis.  Another thing we found is that ergonomists, we’ve got it all wrong, right.  What I call Ergonomics 1.0 was where we had these keyboards tipped forward in trying to reduce this tipping or wrist angle.  We’re finding actually when our shoulders go back that positive tilting.  Tilting it towards our body can help reduce that wrist stress and elbow stress sort of form following function.  I think of it of who were the first ergonomists, I think they were probably monks when they transcribed the Bible they didn’t do it on flat surfaces.  They did it on angled surfaces otherwise they would’ve got carpal tunnel monkitis or something bad like that, right?           

Ben:  Okay.  So right now I’m standing.  For me to achieve that lordotic rather than that kyphotic posture that you’re talking about, would I simply shift my hips further posteriorly behind me or?   

Josh:  Ah, you shift your hips forward actually.

Ben:  Okay, so I tuck my pelvis and shift my hips forward. 

Josh:  Absolutely. 

Ben:  And when I do that what should I expect to happen at the elbows and the wrist from standing in a workstation and when shift my hips forward, should they bend?  Should I feel less pressure on the table on which they’re resting or what should that actually feel like?     

Josh:  Alright, so here’s my pro tip.  So before we go into that lordotic position we stand at our desk and then we shake our arms out relax, its ergonomics, relax (chuckles).  And now we almost close our eyes and raise our hands to a hand shake position and we should walk forward and the hinge bottom of our hands should just grace the top of the keyboard.  And so I like to say, if you can’t shake hands with the work, it’s unfriendly.  So with these height adjustable workstations, I find that the majority of people have inappropriately positioned, so it’s either too low or too high.  So once you’ve got that perfect fit and you have some sort of foot support whether it be a foot rail or an all-terrain… (chuckles).  Place your non-dominant foot, so I’m a righty, so that means my left foot up on that foot rail, and so that sort of gives us an open hip position and naturally put our shoulders back so our hips go forward, our foot goes up on that foot rail.  We can actually sort of lean back just a little bit giving us that natural lordosis.  Now, I make a point of actually tilting my desks and I actually make a line of those coz I find that form follows function and that way it’s much easier to adapt as well as with a stand assist but those…         

Ben:  Okay, gotcha.  I’ve actually tried this as you’ve been talking I have both the treadmill as well as a foam target for shooting arrows.  Don’t ask.  Sitting in front of me here at my desk and I’ve got my foot now up on the treadmill and it feels like that automatically kinda shifted my hips forward.  So would it behoove people then and I do wanna ask you about all these different anti-fatigue and balance mats, and things like that that are popping up nowadays.  Would it behoove someone who is using a standing workstation to then ensure that they have something like a footstool or a log or maybe like a small foam roller, something they could put their foot up on or one foot up on and have one foot down as an alternate position?     

Josh:  Yeah, absolutely.  I actually use the 10 & 2 rollers where you put your hands on the stirring wheel.  Ten and two means after ten minutes of any posture I spent 2 minutes in an alternative posture.  The 2 minutes is my non-dominant foot up on a foot rail.  I like to think, think about going to a pub or any other establishment.  Do they want you to stay or do they want you to go.  Five million Irishmen can’t be wrong so, (laughs) at this point it also opens up from a science standpoint the hip position, right?  Our flexors are extremely tight when we sit at 90 degrees going to the maximum to 180’s are real tough position.  It’s actually back in the 50s there was a guy named Dr. Keegan who opened up that hip and created these kneeling chairs.  That was a good initial idea, unfortunately it came down do you want a bad back or bad knees?  Which one quick (chuckles)?  I don’t think I want either of those.  So that’s the whole idea of sort of this upright dynamic sitting and stand-assist where that’s come from.  But I would tell listenership that absolutely get something that you can change your posture.  And change it up frequently.        

Ben:  Yeah, that’s actually a great lead into the next question that I wanted to ask you.  We’ve obviously talked about sitting and how if you are going to sit you shouldn’t sit for any point more than 2 hours for any given time during the day.  We’ve talked about standing and even standing with one foot up.  I mentioned the walking on a treadmill as being another option using one of these treadmill workstations.  What are a couple of other positions that you find yourself in during the day as alternate positions to either standing, sitting, or walking, or positions that you would recommend as something maybe somebody hadn’t thought of?       

Josh:  So I’ll take walking one step further.  I would say that I’m a big fan of the walking meeting.  The very clickable phrase sitting is the new smoking came from my friend Nilofer Merchant she brought that up in a Ted Talk a couple of years ago but the idea that also getting out and spending time in a walking meeting is a really great posture.  It’s a way to be digitally anonymous, to have a small group of 2 to 4 people.  I like to carry with me on those walking meetings a stand-assist.  A stand-assist is nothing more, listening this podcast is being recorded right around the time of the holidays here.  I know that I’ll be seeing my friends and my family and what happens when we all get-together, we inevitably all congregate in the kitchen and inevitably we’ll end up leaning up against the kitchen counter.  This idea of perching or leaning is really what I’m calling a third posture.  It’s perching or opening up the hip to 135 degree angle.  Ironically, it’s what the body adapts in the absence of gravity so if you’re trying to imagine this look at an astronaut in space, it’s where your body comes to that natural position.  It kinda looks like Josh on a Harley with highway pegs.  My open hip position, nice arm position, and I think that dynamic perching position really represents an alternative that allows me to take my own advice, the best posture is always your next one.

Ben:  So you’re actually leaning with your back to the surface? 

Josh:  Yeah, think of it as if you’ve ever seen a parade that actually have a back support or actually a leaning support.  You might see that on the front of a fishing boat perhaps.  And so what we’ve done is really taking that to the next step and as you mentioned I’m a member of the BIFMA X51 Business [0:36:56.5] ______ Furniture Manufacturers Association so.     

Ben:  Yes, and everybody knows what that is. 

Josh:  Yeah, of course you’re all geeks like me.  The BIFMA X51 committee on this we’re seeing a tremendous growth in the number of vendors and manufacturers and designers that are trying to really bring some of these health risks sub-sitting under control and give people some alternatives.  I get asked once a week, right.  Should I sit all day, should I stand all day?  I say, I don’t mean to alarm you but there might be a third alternative, right?     

Ben:  Yeah, interesting.  Now one of the things I wanted to ask you about.  And in full disclosure I do know that your company actually makes the particular stool that I use for this but I will actually lean back on this stool called a Mogo.  Which is just what it sounds like it’s a stool that allows you to lean your body in almost perch in what sounds like a way that you’ve just described.  Is that similar to leaning against a counter when you’re using one of these stools or is that a completely different position?     

Josh:  Yeah, I think you got it.  I mean really, what it is it’s supporting the pelvic area so we’re actually spending some time with that natural lordosis.  I think one of the key aspects is, listen, when you sit in a chair the responsibility for your posture has been taken away from you.  You can sit, you can slump, you can slump your shoulders, you can text and do all of those things.  With dynamic sitting I think the whole principle is that we give back to you what is rightfully yours, right, your posture.  If you’re on a bicycle you own your posture.  You control, you tighten your abs and you create something called NEAT.  NEAT is an acronym for non-exercise activity thermogenesis where I’m firing off my obliques and then recovering, so that whole idea of natural lordosis is really promoted by this posture.       

Ben:  Yeah, I hadn’t used this stool for about 6 months and when I booked you to come on the podcast that jogged my memory about that being in alternate position that I hadn’t been using, and so I took it back out and it’s up at the kitchen table now coz I have 2 different standing workstations.  I have my office which is where I have like a bigger desk, like a standing workstation desk with a treadmill next to it, but then up at the kitchen table I have one of these things called, it’s probably a competitor of your company what’s called a Veridesk which is like this little desk that you put on a table and it goes up and down and I can put my laptop on it, but I put your Mogo stool up there by the kitchen table and I’ve been using that the past couple of weeks and it seems to have helped me achieve a position that puts little less stress on my shoulders and my wrist. But I hadn’t realized that until we were just talking that’s because it allows you to achieve this position of lordosis when you’re leaning against something like a stool rather than just standing straight up and down.  Do I understand that correctly?       

Josh:  Yeah, absolutely.  So form follows function.  If you look at from right side of you, you can see it almost happening.  We’ve actually done some analysis and looked at that and had individuals go through not just a few minutes or not just for a few hours.  What happens to our body and the compensating mechanism so you know, there are sort of things that we can see and there are some sort of unintended things that happen over a period of time or inside our bodies as I mentioned were some of those genes that happened.    

Ben:  Yeah, absolutely and I do think that that Mogo stool was actually pretty cool.  I like that you can fold it up and take it with you on the go.  And again not to belabor the point but if anybody wants to get one I’ll put a link to that in the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitnees.com/standmore.  Just because at that time happen to be a little bit infatuated with it.  Thanks to you, Josh.

Josh:  Yeah, thanks.    

Ben:  Okay.  So I wanna ask you now about some of these standing mats.  I actually have a project that I’ve earmarked as soon as the river isn’t frozen over anymore to do with my kids and that is I want to create one of these pebble mats.  I wanna get a bunch of river rocks from down by the river and create a mat that has all these little pebbles that you can stand on that kinda force your feet to shift and be in new positions during the day.  Kinda like this acupressure mat that I’m standing on right now, but maybe a little bit more beautiful.  As far as these newer standing mats there’s a lot of them out there.  There is one called the KyBounder.  I recently had the inventor of that one and it’s patterned after these Korean rice paddy fields.  You stand on it and it makes you balance almost like a balance mat that you’d see at a gym.  There’s another one called the Fluidstance, and the company that owns the Fluidstance recently sent that to me and it’s almost like a skateboard with a little balance fulcrum in the middle that forces you to balance from side to side as you’re working.  And then there are these mats with different topographies on them.  I think the most popular one is called the Topo Mat.  Now when it comes to these mats, I’m curious because it sounds like you’re kind of on the cutting edge of this stuff, has there been any research or any studies that have looked at anything from like the changes in foot health or foot strength or the actual effects of using something like that?              

Josh:  Yeah, so you ask a really good question because in terms of the published literature there’s very, very little, and it comes down to identifying how much information and what we can quantify the differences subjectively and objectively for.  So what we are looking for is and what I observed is there’s certain of this subconscious movement that happens.  I’ve coined a phrase “rocking your day job” whether it’s side to side, or AP’s, or anterior posturally that whole idea of transitions coz I’m a big fan of changing and obviously getting that next posture.  There is this whole other aspect that other than in an office space the world and nature is rarely flat.  There’s just a tremendous change and variability in terrain.        

Ben:  Yeah, sure tell that to anybody who’s tried to set up a tent while camping, right? 

Josh:  Yeah, so I think as we look at and there’s this great researcher’s recently on in NPR Esther Gokhale and she talks about 8 ways to a pain-free back and why in many of indigenous cultures there’s very little expression of lower back pain because they spend all this time on these varying terrains.  So you would think that there’d be this great literature review and all these wonderful published aspects, and the uncomfortable truth is we really don’t have a whole lot of it.  Recently, Dr. Monroe Keyserling at the University of Michigan looked around this topic and said you know what, we really can’t say with any measure of certainty of what’s happening because they haven’t uniquely identified whether it’s the modulus or the durometers or it’s the stiffness and the rebound of the individual mat.  Whether it’s subject of factors or object of factors.  I will tell you that there is hope, and right now there is something called heart rate variability (HRV).          

Ben:  Oh yeah, we’ve talked about that a lot on the show before.   

Josh:  So this study that’s being published right now and I wish I could share more with you that’s gonna be coming out that talks about HRV.  It’s sort of a lie detector test of if your listenership is familiar with HRV then they understand.  That’s an object of measure of discomfort or comfort, and so that’s gonna really pinpoint this.  So I’d say stay tuned we’re gonna see more of that here in the near future.  But right now there’s some unpublished stuff out there and I think there’s 3 aspects; one is they’re looking at moves per minute, right, so it’s one of the data points.  Does the math introduce more moves?  There’s actually the footprint or ground covered sort of the wristwatches will tell your number of steps and actually the terrain you’ve covered and then there’s sort of this transition foreign app.  You know, I hesitate to put that out there coz it’s unpublished largely done by the vendors themselves but stay tuned (chuckles).      

Ben:  Okay.  I wanna ask you about a couple of things that again in full disclosure are created by the company that you work for but that are related to this question.  I see that you actually have an anti-fatigue mat that you guys, you showed it on your website and the shape of it is to me very strange.  It’s like flat with a curvature and it’s very asymmetric.  Can you tell me why the anti-fatigue mat on your website is designed the way that it is?       

Josh:  Yeah, so again I wanna promote movement so there’s a special modules and durometer that after 30 years of sort of experimentation that we’ve sort of honed in on.  But that’s not enough, we need to create sort of that toes up, torso flex position that is so good and in combination with a way to do desk lunges.  And I’ve actually created a standing desk yoga series that people (chuckles) are interested, downward desk dog and various other elements that give people a chance to keep some measure of dynamic motion through their day.         

Ben:  Really, let me just interrupt you real quick.  Where can I find that? 

Josh:  So if you look on our focalupright.com under our blog section, there’s actually a link to that and there’s actually a media hub that we have some of that postings.

Ben:  Okay, cool.  I’ll put a link to that in the show notes for folks.

Josh:  Yeah, that was a nice series and some 5 minute yoga and things that you can do, and I think it really brings another measure of wellness and something I can actually do during the day.  So that’s kind of our message with the anti-fatigue mat. I think again you wanna own your posture, you wanna make sure.  I actually for a period of time during the day, actually the asymmetric design is so I can actually straddle the mat and actually not use that [0:47:35.8] ______ in between the hard surface and a soft surface.  Again, to change it up.     

Ben:  Yeah.  Got it and it looks like that particular mat is kinda designed to be used with more like the stool or this leaning set-up?

Josh:  Yeah, absolutely. 

Ben:  Okay, cool.  Got it.  Very interesting.  You guys create some pretty crazy looking standing workstation set-ups.  I like it.

So let’s say, kind of a fun question here, Josh.  Let’s say you were going to design an office you know, I was talking about my own office so I’ve got a little kettle bells and pull-up bars here and there.  But if you were to design an office that was gonna be like the ultimate office conducive to both productivity as well as decreasing the risk factor that we talked about earlier like down regulation of lipase or the down regulation of this gene responsible for enhancing blood flow, those type of things.  Besides some of the practical stuff we’ve already discussed just changing positions more et cetera.  What kind of things would you incorporate as a professional ergonomist?  What kind of things would you incorporate into the ultimate active office?      

Josh:  Oh, it’s a great question (laughs).  Oh wow, let’s see. 

Ben:  Maybe not unlimited budget but enough money to play around.

Josh:  Now I’m a thrifty individual so I always try the same token I realized the only time price comes before value is in the dictionary.  So I would start with the visual environment.  I would make sure that I had the best lighting and so there’s actually a measure of lighting that is called the color-rendering index.  I would work towards at least a lighting that had CRI of greater than 90 clearly outside lighting and natural lighting as 100.  I would start with that.  I would work on the acoustics.  And actually allow me to vary just like a village or a town might have different zones.  I create my office so that I have a zone for heads down focused work.  An area where there might be some acoustical privacy.  I might actually have a standing collaboration area that might meetings that have more than five or six people.  I find that very productive so I’d kinda keep it small and keep it active and keep it upright using upright collaboration area.  I’d have a nice measure of light, I mean color, so I’d actually look turns out dehumanize most receptive to about four hundred and twenty, four hundred and thirty nanometers of light, so roygbiv that sort of the GB part of it, so nice green and blue.             

Ben:  Wait, so green and blue mix of light would be the best form of light for a workplace?    

Josh:  I would actually use that for color accents.  I would say color rendering index or a full spectrum light or an LED light and having that using a number of different light manufacture provider.    

Ben:  Okay.  So you mean the actual color of the wall or say like the ceiling or something like that, you would use greens and blues? 

Josh:  I would use some of that.  I would actually mix up with some of the different colors that are up there.  I would say the yellows are also a nice sort of inspiring creativity, and you know, reds’ been given a bad name because it sort of generates additional heart rate but that might be not in my heads down focus area, but more in maybe the active collaboration area.  Clearly one of the things we’re finding and this was from the School of Public Health at Harvard they found that fresh air turns out to be really important.  So going green has lots of benefits but it’s also good for creativity and the people that have access to fresh air and make sure that we let the outdoors in is a really important thing.  I’m a big advocate of the kettle bell as well taking sometime out of the day and getting the heart rate up.  Maybe in my doorjamb having a chin-up bar so I could do a nice lean or a nice soft hang.  And then in the furniture world there is a big focus on the sit-to-stand desk.  I’m gonna tell a dirty little secret here that no one wants to hear.  After [0:51:49.4] ______ is borne off of those sit-to-stand desks, very few people, I’d say 6 to 8 weeks stand at all because their hip flexors are so tight and I would make sure that I have a stand-assist paired with whatever desk I have whether it’s a competitor Veridesk or whatever might be.             

Ben:  Yeah, well my dirty little secret on that is that I typically leave the actual veridesk in the standing position, and because I have it on the kitchen table I simply sit at the table next to it and then stand up when I wanna stand up at it.  So I’m too lazy to actually push the button that makes it go down to the seated position myself.  So I’ve the opposite problem of not having it in the seated position.  These are some really interesting tips and it’d be very cool to compare our respective offices.  A couple of things that I’ve added to my office.  My wife bought some of these house plants that based off of a NASA study that was done on house plants have been proven to be some of the better ones at detoxifying the air and producing oxygen.  And I’ve got a couple of those in the office.  I also use these bulbs.  I don’t know if you’ve heard of these Josh, they’re made by a company called Lighting Science.  They’re called Awake and Alert bulbs that produce high amounts of light from the blue light wave spectrum.            

Josh:  Ah. 

Ben:  To enhance wake from obviously you wouldn’t want these anywhere near say like a master bedroom where you’d want to be sleeping but for an office they’re actually in recessed cans in my office ceiling for enhancing wakefulness.  I have them on right now during the day and then one of the other little things I’ve added into my office among a variety of other things is the treadmill that I use is called a TrueForm treadmill, and it is impossible to move the belt on the treadmill to make it walk unless you are leaning forward and activating your glutes.  It’s a manually powered treadmill with no motors so it doesn’t produce a lot of electrical pollution or anything like that, but it also trains your body how to both walk properly and run properly when you’re on it.  So I can kill two birds with one stone and not only be moving but also training my butt how to stay activated which is actually pretty important from an athletic standpoint.  So those are few of the little tweaks I have in my office.      

Josh:  Those are great, great tips, absolutely.  And just as a quick note on the whole blue discussion and visible spectrum.  After age eighteen, it’s all downhill that we lose our visible ability to see those blues dramatically, almost logarithmically.  So it’s a thing that people tend to like blues but we lose the ability to see that.  It makes sense to replenish.

Ben:  Interesting.  That would also be an interesting topic to bring up again, not to geek out too much and I know we’re starting to run short on time but there’s a company that makes an in-ear phototherapy device used for things like seasonal effective disorder or resetting your circadian rhythm after you’ve travelled to a new location.  It’s called a Human Charger, and rather than targeting blue light receptors in your eyes that actually targets blue light receptors in your ears, you can literally have this thing on and in your ears while you’re working say at your office to enhance wakefulness via hitting the actual photoreceptors within your ear with blue light.

Josh:  Oh, that’s awesome.  I would tell you there’s one other thing that really sparked my curiosity.  I had the privilege of being on a panel during one of these Ignite sessions in LA recently and I got to, I don’t know how I got to be one of the speakers (chuckles) but I was positioned next to a guy named Ben Waber he runs the company called Humanyze and their really talking about, I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Money Ball but using analytics to help sort of sporting world.  They’re using analytics to help how people work in space and in the office space.  The best example of this was recently done by Deloitte in Amsterdam where they actually have every light fixtures in URL that monitors where you are, and it all though does sound a bit big brother-ish, it does tell me and tracks were I’m at during the day and who I’m connecting with, and whether or not I’m being sedentary.  So it is technology at the next level and I would say that a combination of organic and technology science here together might be the best office that I would have if I were to be as creative as I’d like to be.            

Ben:  I love it.  Well, I’ve been taking some furious notes as we’ve been talking, Josh.  I have for folks who are listening in everything from…  I’ll link over to your guys’ website Focal Upright where if you’re listening in you can peruse everything from their stand-up conferencing tables to the Mogo stool, their standing desks, some of the other kinda beautiful functional furniture that Joshs’ company produces.  And also I’ll link to some of these other things, these studies that we talked about, the apps that remind you to take a break, different forms of mats like a balancing desk mat or a Topo mat, Joshs’ yoga for the upright desk article, and oh so much more.  So check all that out at bengreenfieldfitness.com/standmore, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/standmore and when you’re there, if you have an unanswered question, if you wanna share your own office tips that you found to enhance your own productivity and health at the same time in your office or anything else you wanna add, be sure to leave a comment in the show notes.  And either myself or Josh or someone who knows something about workplace ergonomics and stand up desks and the like will reply to you and help you out.  In the meantime, Josh thanks so much for your time and for coming on the show today.        

Josh:  Oh, absolutely, Ben it’s been a pleasure to chat with you today and I hope everybody gets the chance to live it up (chuckles), you know.    

Ben:  Awesome.  I like it (chuckles).  Live it up.  Don’t be an active couch potato.  Cool.  Folks this is Ben Greenfield and Josh Kerst from Focal Upright signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com.  Have a healthy week.    



A couple years ago, at the Ancestral Health Symposium, I presented a poster entitled  “Biohacking The Hazards of Sitting”. As you can see in the video below, I actually thought I was being quite witty to present a poster on the dangers of sitting while sitting with poor posture in a folding chair.

It’s actually been over five years since I’ve adopted the habit of frequently alternating positions throughout my work day, a strategy I highlight in detail my video “How Should You Stand At A Standing Desk“ and also in last week’s podcast “Standing Desks, Memory Foam & The Science Of Walking Barefoot In Shoes.” My office is actually like a tiny playground, littered with kettlebells, a pull-up bar, a boxing heavy bag, this treadmill workstation, and a variety of standing surfaces, including my latest foot acupressure therapy invention, a Bulletproof Sleep Induction mat wrapped around a Kybounder mat.

But I just can’t get enough of this stuff.

So in a few weeks, I’m interviewing a fiction author about how she writes fiction while standing and walking to train for an ultramarathon, and in today’s podcast, I’m interviewing a guy named Josh Kerst, who mans the helm of one of the most innovative standing workstation companies on the face of the planet: Focal Upright.

Josh is executive vice president of Focal Upright Furniture Inc. He holds a BSE (U of Michigan) in Industrial Engineering and is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE), Certified Industrial Ergonomist (CIE) and is a Member of the ANSI/BIFMA X5.1 Office Seating committee.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

What it means to be an “active couch potato”…

The shocking results of a study on athletes that found they can actually be more sedentary than the average office worker…

-Workplace positions that trigger a gene which restricts your ability to recover and drops your HDL…

-How long you would need to be sitting for the dangers of sitting to begin kicking in…

-How a dangerous response called the “compensation effect” can kick in if you exercise at the beginning of the day, and what you can do about it…

-Why a standing workstation can actually hurt your shoulders, elbows and wrists and how to set up proper ergonomics at a standing workstation…

-Ideas for creative positions you can work in aside from standing, walking or sitting…

-Why you should a “stool” to your standing workstation setup…

-The brand new heart rate variability research coming out soon on standing mats for everything from balance to strengthening and stretching your feet while you are working…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

The Focal Upright Website (this is a place where you can also get the “Mogo” stool or the Locus seat we talk about)

The Kybounder balance deskmat

The Topo mat

The TrueForm treadmill

Yoga For The Upright Desk article

-The Lighting Science “Awake & Alert” Bulbs

-The Human Charger in-ear phototherapy device

-Study: Sedentary behaviour among elite professional footballers: health and performance implications

-Study: Identification of hemostatic genes expressed in human and rat leg muscles and a novel gene (LPP1/PAP2A) suppressed during prolonged physical inactivity (sitting)

-Study: Research on “the compensation effect”

12 different apps that will remind you to take a break







Ask Ben a Podcast Question

One thought on “[Transcript] – The Ultimate Guide To Standing vs. Sitting, Anti-Fatigue Mats, Standing Desks, Sitting Myths & More!

  1. P-Peerapat says:

    Yeah… I do agree with you. As standing for a long time can cause a significant health concern. Therefore, anti-fatigue mats are a great tool to help in the fight against the negative effects of prolonged standing.

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