By now most of you have heard the phrase, “Sitting is the new smoking.” The effects of being sedentary, on a variety of health measurements, have been studied for decades, but only in the last 15 years or so have researchers have begun to generate data to show the negative effects of long-term sitting even on people who meet published government exercise guidelines (greater than 30 minutes a day). If you have a sedentary job, it’s time you stand up for your health by incorporating a standing work station.
Studies are beginning to show that there is a unique physiological response in a sedentary body that is separate from the physiological response of not exercising. What this means is that you can exercise until the cows come home, but if you sit unbroken for over two hours, your body is still in a poor state physiologically. The graphic below is taken from a 2010 study in the journal Exercise Sports Science Review. It shows a measurement of the intensity of activity during waking hours of a person that exercises over 30 minutes a day. Any intensity below 100 (dark blue) is considered sedentary
Talk about feeling blue! Aside from morning and weekend activities, this person’s activity level puts him or her at heightened physiological risk. This amount of sedentary time impacts health and productivity in many, many ways. Simply sitting for two hours uninterrupted can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, neck and low back pain, and a bag full of other orthopedic injuries. Sitting puts your spine in a poor position, your lungs cannot take in adequate oxygen, and therefore your diaphragm works inefficiently. Note that if your oxygen intake is reduced, that means there is less to fuel to your muscles and your brain for performing at work and thinking straight.
But wait, THERE’S MORE!
When sitting, your pelvic floor musculature is also turned off, which can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. At the severe end, that can include sexual dysfunction and urinary and fecal incontinence. Sitting can also diminish your ability to stay actively focused which over time effects your happiness and ability to stay positive and productive in your environment.
So, what to do? By reducing your sitting time and breaking up the time you do sit into smaller increments, you get the following health benefits:
- Lower risk of nefarious diseases
- Improved physical capabilities (PR your heart out)
- Better focus, less post-lunch coma time (can you say. “job promotion?”)
- Better sexy time
- Less bathroom time
- Up to 30% more calories burned
Honor your health before it is lost. Take a look at the information below, and use it to not only help yourself, but your family, friends, and co-workers. Pay it forward and share it this information.
Positions and Measurements for a Standing Work Station
For those whose job is desk-bound, a good investment is a standing work station. You can find a standing work station online or you can fashion your own. Here is the general scoop on your standing work station and how your body and desk components should be positioned:
- Up and Down: Your workstation should allow you to sit and stand, either by virtue of a moveable surface and monitor, or by having surfaces at sitting and standing height.
- Feet: Feet should be in a neutral position with the option to periodically prop a foot on a ledge or even a pile of books. The arches of your feet should be active, so either lose the shoes or wear ones with zero drop from heel to toe. Your feet will work pretty hard during the day but ultimately set your feet up for any battle it needs to win such as walking, running, playing with your kids, etc.
- Knees: Not hyperextended but also not completely bent; the foot that is elevated means that same side knee will be bent as well.
- Hips and pelvis: Keep them neutral; elevating your foot will allow your hips and pelvis to stay neutral. Be sure to switch sides consistently.
- Spine: Envision a string pulling your neck towards the ceiling, and maintain that position.
- Shoulders: Gently roll shoulders back and down.
- Elbows: Keep elbows bent between 70 and 90 degrees.
- Wrists: Keep the wrists neutral, ideally not resting them on any surface.
- Neck: The neck should sit on top of your spine with your ears in line with the outer edges of your shoulders.
- Eyes: Your eyes should be in line with the top of your computer monitor that is 20 to 30 inches away from your face. Your screen should be silted up towards the ceiling 10 to 20 degrees.
This article was written by Dr. Theresa Larson, DPT, while standing at a standing work station.