If you have been to the Dee Why clinic recently you will have noticed the new piece of furniture at the front desk.
That’s right, we have joined the new craze of standing desks, or to be correct- variable desks, where the adjustable desk can be moved from a sitting position to standing.
So with this new purchase in mind and out recent articles on sitting posture and ways to avoid sitting posture strain we thought it would be a good idea to talk about standing desks in more detail this month.
Sitting has been talked about in our previous articles and it has been seen all over the media recently about how bad it is for your body. It is now considered the new smoking with possible damage sitting can actually do to your body. Just briefly, sitting has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and early death. You burn fewer calories sitting so it has also been linked to weight gain and obesity.
From a structural point of view, we know that the hips and pelvis are the foundation of our bodies. Their role is to transfer the gravity vectors evenly through the hip angles and into the sacrum at S2.
This creates the centre of gravity for your whole body to operate on, which means the forces through the spine are balanced and your body is able to function at it’s optimum. However, when you sit this all changes.
When we sit, all the gravity force coming down on our bodies go through the spine and hits the pelvis, which when we are sitting, has nowhere to go.
So the load ends up centred on our low back, which is not built to take this load, in particular when spine is seated.
Over time this can cause low back problems. To make matters worse, a large majority of people sit with their legs crossed while working. This creates an uneven pelvis, which loaded with the gravitational force coming down the spine into the lower back, causes even more problems than sitting in a correct posture.
These Diagrams show the force pressure measured on the lumbar spine discs in different positions.
So the easiest way to avoid all the negative factors of sitting is to not sit at all!!
Or at least limit the amount of time you are sitting.
This is where the standing desk comes in.
To begin, lets begin to look at the benefits of standing.
Standing lowers your risk of weight gain and obesity
Standing has been shown to burn more calories than sitting. In a study comparing sitting vs standing, it was shown that just an afternoon of standing burnt 174 calories more than sitting the same time. That equals almost 1000 more calories burnt each week just by standing in the afternoon. (1)
Standing desks appear to reduce back pain!
Research conducted on standing desks versus sitting desk for back pain show some very interesting results.
Participants reported a 32% improvement in lower back pain after several weeks of using standing desks (2, 3)
Standing desks also reduced upper back and neck pain in another study by 54% after just 4 weeks of use (4)
Standing desks have also been shown to help improve mood and energy level Studies on standing desks also appear to show a positive influence on overall well-being. Participants using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue than those who remained sitting. It also showed 87% of the people using standing desks reported increased vigour and energy throughout the day (4).
Standing desks may even boost productivity. 66% of participants in one study felt more productive when they completed work while using their standing desk versus sitting. 71% of the participants also felt more focused than when they were sitting. (4)
So we with all these benefits, why don’t we just stand all the time? Why should we sit at all?
And just like anything in life, moderation is the key here. Standing too much also has its own problems, so here are some suggestions to help ease you into using a standing desk to avoid any possible issues.
Try using the stand up desk for 30 minutes at first and then build up to 1 hour.
Make sure you listen to your body in this process. The key is to ease into the transition not just jump right in.
If you are going to change to a stand up desk it is also recommended you come into a Spinal Symmetry clinic to have your body assessed. This is to ensure there aren’t any underlying issues that may give your body grief when you change from sitting to standing.
Your body may be used to sitting, so it might fight back against standing for a short period of time, but as you can see the benefits are worth it.
How to set up a Standing desk
It is very important to set your standing desk up correctly. Due to the popularity of standing desks there are now many types of standing desks on the market and with varying costs.
If you are transferring to a standing desk make sure you get one right for your needs, you don’t want to swap one bad sitting desk for one bad standing desk.
When picking a standing desk it is important that the adjustable desk height is correct for your height.
The same principles apply with standing to sitting with desk set up.
The computer screen set at eye level
Elbows tucked into your side, with arms bent at 90 degrees. Your wrists lightly resting on the table, so you can easily type or use the mouse
Feet facing forwards and even apart
Weight evenly dispersed on both feet, with knees slightly relaxed
Your feet, knees, hips, shoulders and head should all be line when working
You may need something to stand on as well depending on the surface of your floor to reduce the stress on your legs from standing for longer periods of time.
There are now a wide range of mats to accompany standing desks.
rubber/foam mats, which will soften the floor to allow your body to transfer the weight into the mat
contored mats, which changes the positioning of your feet to again transfer the weight into the floor and also means you can stretch your legs while standing
balance boards, which can now be altered to change the degree of movement that is occurring from the board as you stand on it. This not only encourages your body to activate while you are standing on the mat, it also means you are constantly moving in tiny degrees. This stops any static load on joints which can cause sore joints. It may take some time to get use to so we suggest starting with a simple foam/rubber mat and build up to the balance board.
Things to NOT do when standing
The whole idea of using a standing desk is to reduce the force going through your body and to do so equally, so doing any of the above will not do this and may lead to injury.
Standing too long can potentially increase the risk of varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis and other cardiovascular problems, as your heart has to work harder to keep the blood flowing from your heart to the toes and back. Research into the health of 7000 people in various professions, found that those who primarily stood all day had double the risk factors of heart disease then those who sat.
However the same research found that a combination of sitting and standing are likely to have beneficial cardiovascular health benefits. (5)
There is one thing to note based on all the research mentioned in this article and research in general on standing.
That is that there hasn’t been enough done yet to get clear and scientific proof that standing has the benefits over sitting. Standing desks are relatively new and so the research is relatively new as well.
Not all work sites and job tasks completed at a desk will be appropriate for a standing desk. For example, some tasks especially requiring fine motor skills are more accurately performed while seated.
Trialing a standing desk to see if it will affect your work before purchasing a whole new set up. This is where the variable desks, which easily convert from sitting to standing are ideal.
So next time you’re in the Dee Why clinic, take a closer look at our standing desk at reception and feel free to ask our practitioners any questions on whether a standing desk will be right for your body type and work situation.
Standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating post-prandial glycaemic excursion. Occup Environ Med.2014 Feb;71(2):109-11. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2013-101823. Epub 2013 Dec 2.
Breaking up workplace sitting time with intermittent standing bouts improves fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort in overweight/obese office workers. Occup Environ Med.2014 Nov;71(11):765-71. doi: 10.1136/oemed-2014-102348. Epub 2014 Aug 28.
Impact of a Sit-Stand Workstation on Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a Randomized Trial. J Occup Environ Med.2016 Mar;58(3):287-93. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000615.
Reducing occupational sitting time and improving worker health: the Take-a-Stand Project, 2011 Prev Chronic Dis.2012;9:E154. doi: 10.5888.pcd9.110323.
The Relationship Between Occupational Standing and Sitting and Incident Heart Disease Over a 12-Year Period in Ontario, Canada. Peter Smith Huiting Ma Richard H Glazier Mahée Gilbert-Ouimet Cameron Mustard American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 1, 1 January 2018, Pages 27–33, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwx298