To sit or stand – IS that the question?!

I often get asked “should I get a standing desk”? Is it a simple answer – well yes and no!

The facts:

Research has proved that our sedentary lifestyle is actively damaging our health - prolonged bouts of sitting and lack of whole body muscular movement are strongly associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and an overall higher risk of death. Not good news (and we probably knew that already.)

But what is often misunderstood is that it the molecular and physiological responses of the body that are prompted by too much sitting cannot simply be cancelled out by taking additional exercise. Yikes!

The key is to build in regular activity during the day (and it’s not as hard as you think to build that into a working day! ) It could include walking meetings, using the stairs, walking to the printer or to talk to a colleague rather than calling or emailing them. And how about taking a “Wiggle Break” (I’ll be talking about this in another blog post – watch this space!) Walking to the shop in your lunchbreak, rather than taking the car, keeping just a small glass of water in your desk – it needs regular top ups, and keeping you hydrated is good news for body and there are the resulting walks to the bathroom too!

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Does a standing desk help?

Sit-stand workstations do have a positive impact on reducing musculoskeletal discomfort and improving health.

HOWEVER

  • These positive impacts are NOT greater than introducing other methods that promote large body movement, such as those above.
  • Our bodies like a mixture of activity, so prolonged standing (more than 15% of the workday) especially if you are not used to it, can actually be detrimentaltoo – leading to musculoskeletal fatigue, discomfort, joint damage, low back pain, pain in the feet, hips , legs and low back, hypertension, muscle acidification, and more.

If you do want to build standing into your day, identify tasks that you find suit you to do while standing. People often finding standing during phone calls is helpful from a psychological perspective as well as physical one. You may find that tasks like reading, researching or planning are easier than those involving data entry. Everyone is different, so experiment and see what works for you.

So the short answer?

It is regular movement rather than standing that is the real key to improving your health at work – and you don’t need a standing desk to do that.

A combination approach of sitting, standing, and moving is GREAT for your wellbeing.

And if you work for an organisation that is willing to provide a standing desk as an option, they are hopefully also more open to a range of ways of building movement into your day too.

Let me know how you get on!

Alison Thomson