More and more researching is coming out to suggest that offices workers should be spending the majority of their day standing up. It seems that sitting down for long, uninterrupted periods of time is almost as bad for you as smoking. Many companies are encouraging their employees to engage in more activity and, if possible, spend less of their workday sitting down. One company we spoke to, an IT support provider called TechQuarters, stated that they encourage the use of standing desks, as well as regular short exercises throughout the day.
There are lots of good reasons why one should consider standing more while at work.
Why is Sitting Bad?
There have been a number of studies into the affects of extended sitting, and the consensus is not good. Most studies have drawn similar conclusions, which is that sitting for multiple consecutive hours, without sufficient exercise to compensate is detrimental to one’s health. In fact, some authorities believe that extended sitting could be almost as detrimental to your health (and even your life) as obesity and smoking.
But why exactly is sitting considered to be so bad for you? The short answer is that the human body has always been designed to stand upright, and all the life-support systems in your body (your heart and other organs, your cardiovascular system, etc.) work best when you are standing up.
Your legs support the whole rest of your body, which is why they contain the biggest muscles – muscles we use for standing. If you are sitting for long periods of time each day (like at a 9-5 job), those leg muscles become less active. When muscles are inactive, they atrophy – meaning they break down, and become smaller and weaker. The weaker your legs are, the more prone to injuries and strains you become, and this becomes a dangerous cycle.
Posture & Spine Health
Good posture is important for good health, and your posture is maintained by certain muscles throughout your body – but especially by muscles in your hips and back. Sitting down causes the muscles in your hips and back to shorten and weaken, which will degrade your posture. Poor posture will lead to further health problems, such as degrading your spine health.
Different Types of Standing Desks
If you’re wanting to stand more while at work, consider a standing desk. This does not necessarily mean that you need to throw out your current desk; but considering the current research surrounding the effects of extended sitting, investing in a standing desk may not be a completely ridiculous idea – especially if you work 9-5, five days a week.
Luckily, there are lots of different options for standing desks, depending on your budget, environment, and your commitment.
Desk Converter / Riser / Topper
A standing desk converter – otherwise known as a desktop riser, or toppers – is a purpose-built unit that you place on your existing desktop, thus providing a platform to place your laptop, or the input components of your desktop (i.e. your monitor, keyboard and mouse).
As standing desks can be quite expensive as a single-purpose piece of furniture, this is a great way to reduce the number of hours a day one is sitting down.
Desktop Risers can be made of wood, plastic, or metal; they can be foldable, or built is a single, solid unit. Depending on whether you have a desktop PC or a laptop, there are different designs. Some desk converters have a shelved design – meaning you place your laptop or PC monitor on the topmost shelf (so that it is closest to eye level), and you place your keyboard and mouse on a lower shelf to ensure your arms are resting at the correct angle (90 degrees).
A sit-stand desk is a special type of desk that has adjustable height settings. This means that users have the option of work whilst sitting, and working whilst standing. These types of desks are also useful because their heights can be adjusted precisely to fit the user – so whether you’re 6’7” or 5’0”, you can work comfortably with a sit-stand desk.
This type of solution may suit you better than using a desk converter. Firstly, as mentioned above, sit-stand desks tend to be more ergonomically flexible, meaning they can be adjusted to the ideal height for the person using it – you can ensure you arms and wrists are in the ideal position to avoid repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
What is more, a sit-stand desk means you have a full-sized desktop, and whichever height you choose, with room enough for your computer and other work accessories – such as your mobile phone, perhaps a notebook, and the various miscellanea we all tend to accrue throughout the workday.
High Top Table
If you truly never want to sit down at work at all, you could potentially save money and simply invest in a high top table to use as your desk. A high top table is any table that is ‘bar height’ and are frequently employed on pubs and restaurants. A high top table might also be used in residential settings where space is tight – as high top tables tend to be narrower.
Unlike a sit-stand desk, using a high top table means you have just one option for working – you have to stand while working. For those who are especially conscious about their health, or perhaps want to improve their core strength, this can be a good option – and seeing as taking regular short breaks at work are proven to increase productivity, you can always have regular sit-down breaks.
A high top table may also have structural advantages over many models of sit-stand desks, many of which have a slight wobble due to their moving parts. Comparatively, a high top table will be perfectly solid.
How to Make Standing at Work Easier
It may come as a shock to the system to suddenly start standing up for 8 solid hours a day; but there are ways to make it easier for yourself.
Take regular breaks
Lots of studies indicate that taking regular scheduled breaks throughout your work day is very good for productivity. Splitting up the day into focus sessions, and making sure to take a moment to relax and decompress will ensure you keep a clear head and don’t get fatigued. If you are spending the majority of your workday standing up, then it is safe to take short sitting breaks throughout the day – this will have the double benefit of resting your legs, and resting your brain.
Wear appropriate shoes
If you are working in an office, and want to use a standing desk, be mindful that standing all day may be tough on your feet if they’re not supported properly. This is why you should always wear footwear that provide proper support and are comfortably padded.
Stand on a soft matt
If you work from home, you don’t have to wear shoes at all. But you might have hard floors, or carpets that don’t offer much padding. Physical therapists recommend using a soft, padded matt to stand on – this will make your feet much more comfortable.