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The health problems and risks posed by prolonged sitting are making it frowned upon, just as smoking is being frowned upon.
A growing number of research bodies have suggested that too much sitting increases the risk of developing diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It can even lead to premature death.
The bad thing about prolonged sitting is that no amount of exercise can undo the damage it causes. Just as exercise and eating healthy food does not counteract a day of smoking and drinking.
However, research has also shown that standing or replacing sitting time with the activities of daily living such as walking, could reduce the health risks posed by much sitting.
Thus, being physically active offers some form of protection against the harms of sitting.
We know that it’s not always easy to just walk away from the task at hand, and that is the reason why workers are now combining the best of both worlds by installing standing desks.
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Tips for Healthy Standing
Note that table height, monitor level, monitor distance from eyes, wrist and arm positioning, and posture all have to be right to prevent injury and physical discomfort
Also, make sure to adjust your workstation so that it’s safe for you when working in the standing positions. Here are five things to keep in mind.
- Ease yourself into it: Just like starting out on a new exercise routine, you’ll probably notice some discomfort in the body and muscles as you start to work in a standing position. Startup with short periods of time and gradually build up that time as you get used to it. Be aware that too much standing could on its own increase one’s chances of musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain.
- Try different routines to find out what works for you: You may like to alternate between sitting and standing based on your work tasks: (standing to read documents, and sitting to make notes). Or you may prefer to change posture based on the time of day (standing in the morning, sitting after lunch or alternating between standing and sitting at every one or two hours.
- Wear comfy shoes or no shoes when standing: Standing on an anti-fatigue mat will sure help to mitigate sore feet, and keeping an extra pair of comfortable shoes in the office for standing is actually a good idea. Standing in high heels all day is probably not a nice option.
- Don’t stay pressured: If you feel fatigued when standing up to work, sit down and rest your legs. Changing postures or going for a short walk allows the body to release muscle tension that has accumulated from much standing or sitting.
- Do not stand alone: Try and get your colleagues involved and normalize standing in the workplace.
Benefits of standing desks
- Less Obesity Risk: According to research conducted by James Levine, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic, a standing desk reduces the risk of obesity. It has also been discovered that the enzyme that helps burn fat in the body shuts down during sitting, making standing to speed up one’s metabolism. On average, a standing worker burns 60 more calories per hour than a sitting one. Over time, weight loss becomes significant.
- Reduced Cancer Risk: Breast cancer and colon cancer appears to be most related to lack of physical activity. A study found that ovarian, prostate, endometrial, and lung cancer could also be related to prolonged sitting.
- There is no definitive answer as to why sitting appears to cause these types of cancer, but it’s possible that increases in C-reactive protein, found in people who sit for longer periods of time, is the cause.
- Lower mortality risk: since prolonged sitting is related to cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, it also follows that the risk of having these diseases is lowered when one lowers the duration of sitting down, thus, promoting longer life. Studies conducted by Levine found out that Excessive sitting, reduces the effectiveness of glucose regulation in the bloodstream, thus resulting in type 2 diabetes.
- Less pain: in a sitting down position, the lower back supports the top half of the body, straining the lumbar region of the spinal column in the process. To relieve this stress on the lower back and lower the risk of spinal shrinkage and pain, one should spend less time sitting.
- Better Posture: A standing desk is a smart option if one wants to improve posture. Let’s consider someone who works with a computer, for example, standing to work keeps you from hunching over or slouching as you tap away on your keyboard thus improving alignment and balance. Also, the simple act of standing will also improve your core strength, leading to a better overall posture.
- Increased energy: The longer you are on your feet during the day, the more active you will feel at the end of the day. This will enable you to further take part in activities such as weight lifting, cycling, and running. Sitting all day, depletes your energy reserves, on the other hand, leaving you more tired and heading to sleep once you get home. Alternating between sitting and standing will give you a high energy level throughout the day.
Standing does burn more calories than sitting, but in order to achieve optimal health benefits, ensure you are walking throughout the workday, too.
In using a standing desk, you should split your time between standing and sitting to achieve balance because staying on your feet all day can lead to knee and foot problems.
Finally, look for creative ways to do other exercises that stretch your muscles and keep your circulation and metabolism going during the workday, too.
Let your body get used to the new position before increasing your standing time, and once you’ve mastered the standing desk, you may want to consider the treadmill or stationary bike desks which allow one to move slowly while working.