Flat Ground is for Wheels, Not Feet

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If you’re here, chances are good that you’ve been convinced sitting all day is a bad idea.

It appears that most people with some exposure to the idea accept it – only about 4% of standing desk related searches on google are searching for benefits or explanation. That means most people just sort of “get it” when they hear that sitting is bad, and start looking for desk options instead of further explanation.

And that makes sense. That humans aren’t designed to sit all day is pretty intuitive.

So let’s try stretching your intuition a bit further. Do you think humans are designed to stand on flat ground all day?

Of course not. But before we take a look at the research, here’s a short story.

Breaking New Ground on a Camping Trip

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It was late summer near the California coast at beautiful Los Padres National Forest. Our brilliant CTO Ryan had spent a golden sun-soaked week camping, hiking, and jumping off towering cliffs into somehow still deep swimming holes. And his time out of the office forced a fairly obvious realization into his mind.

Unlike the concrete, hardwood, and carpet he had been spending much of his working life on, nature was decidedly not flat.

And gliding over varied terrain, his thin shoes gripping rocks as he pushed off in every direction, felt very natural. Even standing stationary on compacted dirt seemed to engage his body.  While conversing with friends around the campfire, his feet would subconsciously seek new contours to explore.

So the question was clear: was he hurting himself by having so much “flat” in his life?

Research Review – The Lost Peripheral Heart

Ryan shared his question with me (Kit) as soon as he was back to the “real” world. After the brief shock of “why didn’t I think of that?” settled, we did what any good engineers would do – we dove into PubMed and Google Scholar to search for academic precedent.

And boy, did we find plenty.

You can read some of the research results in our posts on QuittingSitting here, here, and here.

The thing that stuck out the most was a notion that appears to have been lost to many biomechanists: calf activity is really freaking important for regulating proper blood flow. So much so, that back in the day, researchers dubbed the calves the “peripheral heart”.

Used with permission from QuittingSitting

Used with permission from QuittingSitting.

It’s well explained in those linked blog posts, but the gist is that blood flow is very important to health, and calf contractions such as are generated by walking are critical to ensure proper blood flow. Standing still on flat ground doesn’t drive calf activity any better than sitting still in a chair does. It has some decided benefits with respect to restoring natural tissue loading, joint mobility, and gait posture, but leaves many key drawbacks of static sitting unaddressed.

There was definitely something wrong with “flat”.

The Anecdotal Dot

Have you ever heard the advice to keep a footstool under your desk to encourage movement and postural variety? How about the great Katy Bowman’s recommendation to cut a foam roller in half the long way and play with that?

Clearly, some have recognized that “flat” is bad, and that “not flat” is a way to solve it.

Bringing it All Together

We have a very cool solution developed for the “flat” problem, and we’ll start detailing our development path tomorrow.

But in the mean time, we’re interested; do you see the connection that we saw?

We’re running an exclusive launch of our solution on January 6th, and I’d love if you figure out what we’ll be launching before then. Exciting, right?

So let us know in the comments – have you connected the dots? What does the picture look like?

*Hint: If you share this post on Facebook, you’ll see a preview image showing a bit of what our solution is all about.*