Pure Physio Blog

Benefits Of A Standing Desk

Published on
18 Jun 2014

Standing Workstation

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Is sitting the new smoking? How to take a stand and benefit your health and wellbeing.

In today’s society we are mostly desk-bound, writes physiotherapist Roy Dookia. It’s a widely held misconception that sitting is a neutral rest position for the body – it’s actually not a good way to load the spine, especially for prolonged periods. Sitting is one of the most passive things you can do – the level of muscle activity drops and the rate of burning calories decreases to a third of what it would be if you were to get up and walk.

There are several studies that now link prolonged sitting to increased mortality. The benefits of avoiding prolonged sitting include reduced risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. By sitting, you are using less energy, which makes it easier to gain weight and leaves you more susceptible to the associated health problems.

So how should we counteract sitting?

The common thinking is that some form of exercise or aerobic workout before or after work, or at lunchtime, can negate the time spent sitting. But studies have shown that exercise is not the best antidote for prolonged sitting.

The best way is to regularly interrupt the sitting – take frequent breaks and go for short walks. Deliver messages to colleagues in person where possible (rather than emailing or talking to them on the phone) and take the stairs instead of the lift.

Another option is to adopt standing desks or adjustable height desks. These are becoming more and more popular as the benefits of a standing desk  are helping fight back against the rise in obesity and other health issues resulting from sedentary work places.

Denmark is leading the way – making it mandatory for employers to offer their staff adjustable height desks. Similar desks are now also being trialled in a Melbourne primary school.

Standing is comparatively hard work compared to sitting as you automatically engage your leg, back and core muscles. You will also unconsciously change position more frequently, resulting in higher energy use. Standing burns on average 50 more calories per hour than sitting. Reducing the time spent sitting will therefore lead to an individual having a lower long-term mortality risk.

For those that don’t have access to standing desks it’s still important to make sure you’re adopting the correct posture when sitting. An ergonomic assessment of your workstation can be very beneficial to prevent headaches, neck and shoulder pain and low back pain. If you suffer from these pains with sitting it’s worthwhile chatting to your physio – they can work with you to relieve symptoms and direct rehabilitation in order to prevent ongoing pain.

Image credit: Ian Dick

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