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Workplace Wellness: Should You Be Using Standing Workstations?

January 03, 2017 | Jeri Inmon, PT

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busy-women-work.jpgYou’ve probably heard someone say it by now: Sitting is the new smoking.

Indeed, the news is certainly spreading that sitting at a desk all day is bad for your health. Really bad. First of all, sitting does not burn a whole lot of calories. But the truly frightening news is that marathon sitting sessions can actually change your metabolism.

A study by the Sax Institute in Australia found that people who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying in the next three years than people who sat less than four hours a day.

There are, of course, lots of hacks to mitigate the effects of a desk job, including walking down the hall to talk to a coworker instead of sending an email, taking a stroll at lunch and even dropping for a few push ups or stretches every hour or so.

But the ultimate solution—at least for some—is to equip their office with a standing workstation.

If you think that sounds kind of awful, we get it. For many of us, one of life’s great pleasures is sitting down at our desk in the morning with a cup of coffee to check our emails and maybe a bit of news before launching into our work.

The thing is, this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. The easiest option is to buy an adjustable riser (like this one from Amazon) that you place right on your regular desk so you can alternate easily between sitting and standing. UpDesk offers a popular line of standing workstations, as well. You can also start without investing any money at all just by stacking a few boxes on your desk and giving it a try for five minutes a day.

You may find there are some unexpected benefits to standing while working.

Some small studies show that standing while working boosts brain activity and can lead to creativity and innovation. For example, you might find a new way to approach a task or come up with a new idea. This is what proponents call thinking on your feet.

Anecdotally, many people also report benefits such as feeling more alert and having more energy; feeling more engaged with co-workers; improved posture and core strength; and just a general feeling of being ready for action. These are rather intangible benefits, but you may experience some of them as well.

There are also a few risks. If you’ve been sitting down at work for years, you should not give up your chair cold turkey. Doing so could lead to foot or back problems or other injuries. You also should not stand all day in wingtips or stilettos and should consider getting an anti-fatigue mat to stand on.

Be aware that when using a standing workstation, you should still adhere to the same edicts of workplace ergonomics. That means when your hands are on your keyboard, your arms should be bent at about a 90-degree angle. Your eyes should be looking straight ahead at your monitor.

Better health. Increased energy. More creativity. Top-notch problem-solving skills. Improved relationships with co-workers. It’s not been proven you will reap all of these benefits if you try a standing workstation. But what do you have to lose by giving it a try?

One disclaimer: If you’re working at a sitting desk job and already face medical challenges, whether it be high blood pressure or back problems, it’s a good idea to meet with your doctor to come up with a strategy for better health before putting your old desk out with the trash.

For information the Rehabilitation Center at Fisher-Titus Medical Center, call 419-660-2700 or visit the rehabilitation page on our website.

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