Many of you have probably heard of the detrimental health statistics about sitting at a desk for 8 or more hours per day. Some statistics reveal that a sedentary job is equal to the health effects of smoking or drinking! And that it makes us fat.
In truth, by the end of the day (and even more so by the end of the week) we probably tend to look like the picture below. Over time, bones stiffen into this position and the muscles on our back get overstretched and weak. Meanwhile, muscles on the chest get very tight and restricted. Since life is also “in front of us” we tend to be in this position even outside of work. The effects of gravity are tough to fight!
What to do? The point of this blog is to help guide you through all the new buzz about standing while at work. To stand or not to stand? The short answer is, it depends. Do you have specific aches or pains? For example, if you have a lumbar disc injury, neck pain or shoulder pain then standing may be beneficial. On the other hand, if you have significant arthritis in your lumbar spine or your knees, standing might be very uncomfortable.
If you think it would be better for your body to stand, here are a few considerations:
• Are you personally or is your office willing to invest in the large price tag for a new desk? Adjustable sit to stand desks are expensive, but not considering the price tag, they can be very beneficial.
• Understand that transitioning everyone in the office to even a static standing desk may not be in the office budget.
• To see if you even like standing, try a do-it-yourself platform to stack on your existing desk. Measurements need to be accurate based on your height, and the height of the existing desk. You can stack books or use a crate to elevate your monitor and keyboard. Maybe you even decide that this DIY project will work for you permanently!
• A thick mat may be necessary to help cushion your feet and decrease pressure on your spine
• A physical therapist can help you determine ergonomic measurements that fit your body to your workspace.
Can’t stand? Try these tips:
• Transfer between an office chair or an exercise ball. Even if you can’t or don’t want to stand all day, try to do some tasks in a standing position
• Get up and take breaks! Even just a quick 3 minutes every hour could make a difference.
• At the office, do stretches to reverse the forward effects of gravity. Take your joints in the opposite direction that they have been all day. For example, stretch your mid back into extension, straighten your arms, straighten your hips, and open your chest
• A full ergonomic evaluation by someone in your HR department or by your physical therapist could help fit the desk to your body more appropriately.
Jessica Dufault is a licensed physical therapist, a certified athletic trainer and a co-owner of Mindful Motion Physical Therapy, LLC in Madison, Wisconsin. She earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Emory University in 2006.
These are the thoughts and opinions of the author and they do not constitute medical advice. For advice on medical issues you should always consult your local medical practitioner.