Do I Need a Sit/Stand Desk Setup?

There’s a growing trend for workplaces to provide staff with variable-height standing desks to allow them to do computer and other desk-based work out of the chair. Apart from the longer-term health benefits, standing helps prevent a harmful build-up of sugars and fats in your blood. Workers who stand more often say they have better energy levels and concentration (after a while). It can also help you manage your weight; standing uses around 13% more energy over the course of an eight-hour day, says Dr Dunstan, who is head of physical activity at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. So accumulating four hours of standing time would burn energy equivalent to a 45-minute walk.

The metabolic and hormonal benefits of standing are enormous, but, standing can be hard on your body if you’re not used to it, or if the source of your pain is postural. Simply standing will not fix pain from postural abnormalities, infact for some people whose posture is not ideal, they will experience more pain if placed into a static, fully loaded standing position.

What we know is that it’s not actually the sitting as such; it’s the long periods of time seated without any interruption that impact the hormones and metabolic pathways and create and worsen musculoskeletal issues. Even people who exercise after work etc. don’t seems to be immunised against these issues, the changes that are created can be usurped by breaking the sitting time down on a very regular basis.

When we sit for long periods, the top half of the body tends to be the focus for pain and discomfort. When we stand for too long it’s the bottom half of the body (lower back and knees). So mixing it up is the way to go. Frequent transitions between sitting and standing (and vice versa) are likely to be more sustainable than five hours straight standing. If you don’t have the resources to move to a sit stand environment, simply get up every 20-30 minutes.

If you are going to be transitioning to a sit/stand situation you need to get your posture right. This means:

  • Feet shoulder width apart
  • Your rib cage above your hips so that you aren’t leaning forward or backward
  • Your knees straight but not locked
  • • Shoulders neither hunched forward nor too far back

The goal is not to stay still like a statue, but rather to incorporate small movements as much as possible. The best posture is the next posture. Don’t just stand there: go up and down on your toes six to eight times and do some shoulder rolls to release any tension and walk around whenever you can. While leaning to one side for long periods is not recommended, a bit of fidgeting to take continuous pressure of your limbs is good. Maybe keep a small platform under your desk where you can rest one leg to take the load off it.

Wear the right shoes if you’re standing more. Some people find they need different shoes when spending more time on their feet. This might mean they need to wear joggers, or even bare feet. Standing too long in heels for instance can cause women to have problems in their knees, hips and back. Women worried about looking too casual could keep some dressier shoes to slip into for occasions when needed.

Most importantly get your ergonomics sorted. Just because you’re working upright doesn’t mean the normal advice about correct positioning of your computer screen and keyboard go out the window. Whatever your setup, make sure the alignment is still right.

If you are spending a block of your day standing, a harder surface underfoot (even carpet over a concrete floor) can become tiring. Standing on an anti-fatigue mat can absorb some of the pressure.

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