This article was written at a standing work station. Standing workstation health is a de rigeur topic. What’s too much? What’s too little? To get there, let’s back up and understand the science of sitting.
By now most of you have heard the phrase “Sitting is the new Smoking.” The effects of being sedentary on a variety of health measurements have been studied for decades, but it’s only in the last 15 years or so that researchers have begun to generate data to show the negative effects of long-term sitting even on people who meet published government exercise guidelines (greater than 30 minutes a day).
Studies are beginning to show that there is a unique physiological response in a sedentary body that is separate from the physiological response of not exercising. What this means is you can exercise until the cows come home, but if you sit unbroken for 2+ hours, your body is still in a poor state physiologically. The graphic below is taken from a 2010 study in Exercise Sports Science Review. It shows a measurement of the intensity of activity during waking hours of a person that exercises 30+ minutes a day. Any intensity below 100 (dark blue) is considered sedentary.
Talk about feeling blue! Aside from morning and weekend activities, this person’s activity level puts him/her at heighted physiological risk. This amount of sedentary time impacts health and productivity in many, many ways. Simply sitting for 2 hours uninterrupted can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, neck and low back pain, and a bag full of other orthopedic injuries. Sitting puts your spine in a poor position, your lungs cannot take in adequate oxygen, and therefore your diaphragm works inefficiently. Note that if your oxygen intake is reduced that means there is less to fuel to your muscles and your brain for performing at work and thinking straight.
But wait, THERE’S MORE!! When sitting, your pelvic floor musculature is also turned off which can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. At the severe end, that can include sexual dysfunction and urinary AND fecal incontinence. Sitting can also diminish your ability to stay actively focused which over time research shows effects your happiness and ability to stay positive and productive in your environment.
So, what to do? By reducing your sitting time (i.e. improving your standing workstation health) and breaking up the time you do sit into smaller increments, you get the following:
- Lower risk of nefarious diseases
- Improved physical capabilities (PR your heart out)
- Better focus, less post-lunch coma time (can you say “job promotion!!”)
- Better sexy time and less bathroom time
- Up to 30% more calories burnt
Seriously people, honor your health before it is lost. Take a look at the information and the super-professional and campy video below, and use it to not only help yourself, but your family, friends, and co-workers. Pay it forward and share it this information.
Positions and Measurements for Optimal Standing Workstation Health
For those whose job is desk-bound, a good investment is a standing work station. You can find them online or you can fashion your own. A comprehensive review of standing workstations can be found HERE. You can also review our other post in the topic HERE.
Below is the general scoop on standing workstation health and how your body and desk components should be positioned.
- Up and Down: Your workstation should allow you to sit and stand, either by virtue of a moveable surface and monitor, or by having surfaces at sitting and standing height. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT IN THIS ARTICLE. Standing is generally better than sitting, but if you’re not MOVING frequently then it’s all moot.
- Feet: Feet should be in a neutral position with the option to periodically prop a foot on a ledge or even a pile of books. The arches of your feet should be active, so either lose the shoes or wear ones with zero drop from heel to toe. Your feet will work pretty hard during the day but ultimately set your feet up for any battle it needs to win- walking, running, playing with your kids etc.
- Knees: Not Hyperextended but also not completely bent, the foot that is elevated means that same side knee will be bent as well.
- Hips/pelvis: Keep them neutral; elevating your foot will allow your hips and pelvis to stay neutral. Be sure to switch sides consistently.
- Spine: Envision a string pulling your neck towards the ceiling and maintain that position.
- Shoulders: Gently roll them back and down.
- Elbows: Keep them bent between 70 -90 degrees.
- Wrists: Keep the wrists neutral, ideally not resting them on any surface.
- Neck: The neck should sit on top of your spine with your ears in line with the outer edges of your shoulders.
- Eyes: Your eyes should be in line with the top of your computer monitor that is 20-30 inches away from your face. Your screen should be silted up towards the ceiling 10-20 degrees.
Weening yourself off the nicotine of sitting:
Your goal each week is to add 30-60 minutes of standing per day. By week 12 you should be standing more than half of your day. Change positions as frequently as is comfortable, and keep track of your mood, focus, and energy. Plan standing times to coincide with phone calls, commercials, meetings, and email time. You might even try standing at meals, using a pub table. We also suggest setting alarms or notices on your phone to ensure you move and change positions.
Moving is the solution. Increasing your standing time is a good first step in that direction. Overall, moving often can be just the ticket to prolonging your life, decreasing the orthopedic injuries that follow a sedentary life style, as well as improve your overall productivity in your work, and more importantly your focus in your life. More focused work means a happier life and more flow experiences, says positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Businesses as a well as individuals should say yes to this cognitive gold mine of opportunity to improve overall focus, happiness, and of course productivity.
Reviews.com The Best Standing Desk. https://www.reviews.com/standing-desk/
StandUpKids.org. Sitting versus Standing. http://standupkids.org/standing-vs-sitting/. Published January 2015. Accessed July 7 2015
NoteBooks.com. Standing Desk Guides, Examples, and Measurements. http://notebooks.com/2011/05/03/standing-desk-guide-measurements-examples-and-benefits/. Accessed July 7 2015
MedicalDaily.com. The Risks of Sitting All Day Sedentary Life style effects on movement and brain activity. http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/risks-sitting-all-day-sedentary-lifestyle-affects-muscle-movement-brain-activity-327154. Published January 23 2015. Accessed on July 7 2015
HarvardHealthPublications.com. Too Much Sitting Linked to an Early Death. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/too-much-sitting-linked-to-an-early-death-201401297004. Published January 29 2014. Accessed July 7 2015
Pursuitofhappiness.org. Flow. http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/getting-in-the-flow/. Published January 2015. Accessed July 7 2015
Juststand.org. Stand Up Desks and Mounts. http://www.juststand.org/tabid/660/language/en-US/default.aspx. Published January 2015. Accessed July 7 2015
This article was udpated in January 2018 to include the Reviews.com link to standing workstations.