13 Aug Standing Desks: Is sitting the new smoking? A Physio’s View
Is Sitting the new Smoking?
“Sitting, it’s becoming fashionable to note, is the “new smoking”. Sedentary behaviour dominates modern life, just as smoking did some decades ago.” (The Conversation Media Group)
A growing body of physiotherapy research suggests too much sitting increases the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The good news is that being physically active offers some protection against the harms of sitting.
But that’s no excuse to stop exercising: adults should limit their daily sitting time and break up prolonged periods of sitting, in addition to regular physical activity, for better health and well-being. In other words, reducing sitting time won’t replace the well-established health benefits of regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, such as brisk walking, running, cycling or dancing.
A growing number of people are getting standing desks in response to the increasing knowledge about the harms of their sedentary lifestyles.
Can you transition to standing at work without causing yourself harm and injury? Of course you can, although there are some precautions that will ensure you not only avoid injury but also stick to standing in the long term.
Tips for healthy standing
Before you start, please note that the usual ergonomic set-up considerations apply to your new work area. Table height, monitor level, monitor distance from eyes, wrist and arm positioning, and posture all have to be right to prevent physical discomfort and injury. Make sure to adjust your workstation so that it’s safe for you when working in both the seated and standing positions.
Once you’re all set up, here are six things to keep in mind.
- Ease yourself into it
- Like embarking on a new exercise routine, you’ll probably notice some discomfort in your body and muscles as you start to work in a standing position. Start standing for short periods of time and gradually build up that time as you get used to it.
- Be aware that too much standing could increase your chances of musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain, and varicose veins. Many people experience physical discomfort as a result of sitting at their desks for hours on end; standing might mean the site of discomfort changes.
- Some people like to alternate between sitting and standing based on their work tasks (standing to check emails and read documents, for instance, and sitting down to write notes or type documents). Others prefer to change posture based on the time of day (standing first thing in the morning for instance, or after lunch) or for set periods of time, such as every one or two hours.
- Wear comfortable shoes or take off your shoes when standing up. Some people keep an extra pair of comfortable shoes in the office for when they’re standing to work.
- Don’t feel pressured. If you feel tired or fatigued when standing up to work, sit down and rest your legs. If you’ve been standing in the same position for a while, it might help to go for a quick stroll. Changing postures or going for a walk allows your body to release muscle tension after you’ve been in a static sitting or standing posture.
Not an option?
People who don’t have the option of a standing desk – or those who just don’t want to stand at work – need not despair. Here are five easy ways to sit less and move more during your workday, without hacking your regular desk.
- Have regular breaks
- Take time to look away from the computer screen or whatever you are doing, and maybe stretch, even if only for a minute or two. Try taking a break every 30 minutes or once every hour. If you’re someone who loses track of time when you’re in the middle of a task, there are myriad apps to remind you to stop and take a break.
- Climb one or more floors instead of taking the elevator.
- Try standing up when using the phone. Find a surface that’s standing height, such as a tall filing cabinet, and use it as a standing desk to do certain bits of work. Stand up during meetings or teleconferences, and invite other attendees to join you for the meeting upstanding.
- Use the bin, printer, or bathroom that’s farther away from your desk. Walk to talk to your colleagues instead of sending them emails or calling. Walk and talk.