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February 6, 2015

Don’t Be Afraid to Sit at Work.


Standing desk

It’s fantastic how many people are starting to stand instead of sit at work. There’s only one thing: when we told you not to sit all day, we didn’t mean that you should stand all day!

Staying in one position too long—sitting or standing—is a risk factor for injury and can come with a list of ailments.

If you are standing all day and have started to develop cankles, for example, I recommend taking more sitting breaks. If you are sitting all day and feel completely drained at the end of the day, it would probably help to stand and move more.

The goal is to switch between sitting and standing throughout the day, therefore avoiding static muscle fatigue. A good rule of thumb is to not stay in any one position for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Why should we keep moving?

Movement keeps our bodies healthy and prevents illness. Mixing periods of sitting with periods of standing—in addition to making time to move—is key to health in today’s sedentary-oriented world.

When we change between sitting and standing during the day, we adjust and relieve the amount of load on specific body parts.

Standing switches on the enzymes that are responsible for good health, increases blood flow to relieve fatigued muscles and permits the body to achieve a loading balance. Standing also helps regulate blood pressure.

But sitting can be healthy, too. Sitting gives our leg muscles time to rest and recover from supporting the weight of the body. It can help prevent sore feet, swollen legs, fatigue, varicose veins and low back pain—all ailments that can occur simply by standing too long without a break. This is why we need to sit some as well.

Just the act of transitioning from sitting to standing is good for us: it forces our bodies to work against gravity and keeps our skeletal muscles strong.

When should we sit? When should we stand?

If you prefer to stand most of the day, try to sit at least 10 minutes of every hour. If you get uncomfortable at any time, change positions. Ideally, work into changing positions every 30 minutes.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with sitting for most of the hour and taking a 10-to-15 minute standing break (even better, take two 5-to-10 minute standing breaks every hour). Doing just this is, according to most experts, is enough to stave off  “sitting disease.”

Remember, it’s a lifestyle change from what most of us have been doing our entire working life. Doing whatever works best for you and your kind of work is what will most likely keep you in optimal health.

5 tips for being more comfortable at your standing desk:

1. Move more to avoid static muscle fatigue. Try setting reminders for yourself to move (sit or stand). This will help you remember to change positions until you start to move more on your own.

2. “To easily double your comfortable standing time,” Mark Benden, Director of the Texas A&M Ergonomics Center, suggests “using a footrail/footrest while standing. It is essentially a fatigue break for half of the large trunk muscles holding you upright.”

3. Wear comfortable footwear. If you intend to stand most of your day, wear a shoe with good support and forgo heels for long standing sessions. Most avid standers keep an extra pair of shoes at their desk for a quick change when needed.

4. If you are standing on a hard floor such as concrete, invest in an anti-fatigue mat. This can reduce the impact on your legs and feet. Do not stack multiple mats on top of each other. Too much cushion could actually cause fatigue and be a tripping hazard.

5. Make sure that the height of your keyboard and monitor is in position to help keep you in a neutral, straight posture. Avoiding risk factors at work such as awkward posture will help keep you comfortable and decrease your risk for injury.

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Author: Ann Hall

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Photo: Wikimedia

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