Standing vs. Sitting at Work

Author: Sarah Chan, PA-C

If you’re reading this right now, are you sitting? If so, for how long? According to Dr. David Agus of UCLA, sedentary sitting for five or more hours is equivalent to smoking a pack and a quarter of cigarettes. Yikes. Excessive sitting severely impacts your body’s metabolic system. It slows down your metabolism, increases the risk of high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, cancer and obesity. Sedentary lifestyles also increase the risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases. Global studies have shown that an average person sits for about 7.7 hours a day.

Think about the following questions and add up how many hours you sit in a day. How long is your commute to work? Do you work at a desk- what’s your work set up? Do you eat lunch or dinner sitting down? Commute home? Do you watch TV when you get home? It’s a lot of sitting, once you add it up.

The obvious remedy to what people call the ‘sitting disease’ is simply standing and moving around more during the day. Here’s some ways to get you to stand more during the day:

  1. When on a phone call, stand up while talking. If you’re on a hands-free device and don’t need to be in the office, take a walk and talk at the same time.
  2. Park your car a little farther away.
  3. Use the stairs, not the elevator.
  4. Take a longer route to use the restroom and/or break room.
  5. If watching TV, get up at every pesky commercial break to walk around and stretch.

I’ve personally tried to stand more during my work day. I’ve invested in a ‘standing-desk’ I found on Amazon for about $250 and a plush floor mat for around $30. It’s been worth every penny. I tend to stand up about every 30 minutes or so. Having an adjustable sit-to-stand desk has proven an effective solution for reducing prolonged sitting. You can instantaneously sit or stand as you choose while remaining engaged with your computer and work. Since people naturally want to sit more, this is a great solution to break up the day. Standing is simply like walking. It improves circulation, burns calories and increases both metabolism and energy.

If you’re interested in transforming your workstation into a standing desk, here’s my advice:

  1. It’s all about posture. You don’t want to stand and then lean on your desk and create bad posture. This will put unwanted pressure on your joints and create back problems.
  2. The computer monitor should be at least 20 – 28 inches away from your eyes.
  3. The desk should have you looking slightly down to the monitor, versus looking up. The screen should be at a 20-degree tilt.
  4. Elbows should be at a 90-degree angle to the keyboard.
  5. Table height should be at or slightly below elbow height.

Keep in mind that you don’t want to stand all the time, you need to mix it up. Standing for long periods of time will eventually lead to its own set of health problems. I think of this when it comes to hotel concierges. They stand for long periods of timstanding deske, so stretching and getting a padded floor mat will help relieve pressure on the back and joints. If this sounds like you, to improve your circulation, remember to sway back and forth, rock side to side, bend your knees and don’t forget to stretch your arms, back and legs.

The key is to start small. If you can’t get a converting standing desk right away, set a timer every 30 minutes reminding yourself to stand up, stretch or take a brisk walk. This will not only improve your overall health, but will increase your focus and concentration. Another tip is to convert your chair. Try getting a stability ball ($20 on Amazon) and sitting on it for some periods throughout the day. The LiveStrong Foundation states that a stability ball is a piece of exercise equipment that is used for strength training and to improve balance and stability. Replacing the traditional office chair with a stability ball has become increasingly popular. When sitting on a stability ball, you can’t sit still. You’re forced to constantly adjust to the forces of gravity.

Consequently, you shouldn’t fully replace your normal office chair with the ball, but to mix it up throughout the day, just like you would go from sitting to standing. In addition to my convertible standing desk, I too have a stability ball at work. I am a believer that the stability ball shouldn’t replace your office chair, but it should be used in conjunction to your chair. I’ll stand for a little, sit in my chair, then move to the stability ball, then go back up to stand, etc.

Overall, your goal is to simply move more. Sitting or standing for long periods of time isn’t good for your overall health. Make it a point to stand and sit for some periods and to mix it up. I’ve personally seen a difference since adding my standing desk and stability ball. I’ve seen an increase in energy, (I don’t get the ‘2 PM’ slumps), I don’t have as much pain in my back and knees and my concentration on work projects have been better. Remember to again, start small and see what works best for you. If you’re still sitting after reading this article, stand up right now and take a 2-minute break to walk around and stretch – your body and mind will thank you!

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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