Is it finally time to use a sit-stand desk?
With working from home (WFH) becoming the norm of the 2020s we’re finding ourselves sitting for even longer periods of time. Unfortunately sitting for long periods is also associated with higher muscle activity in the neck and shoulders and development of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and multiple types of cancer.
As physiotherapists we often see patients coming in for painful muscle spasms and joint stiffness which are due to cumulative static muscle loading (SML). SML is when the muscles are contracting while no movement is achieved over sustained periods leading to limited oxygen and nutrients supply and allowing lactic acid build up. This prolonged tension can also lead to tendons and nerves associated with the area to be under constant pressure from swelling.
Why use a sit-stand desk?
“Movement is medicine”. If you sit for nearly 8 hours a day, it's likely your muscles will be aching regardless of how perfect your setup is. The key is to move your body regularly i.e. every 30-60mins a day. If you notice yourself shifting and fidgeting in your seat, that’s your body asking for a change! Give your body what it wants by stretching your back, turning your neck gently and reaching your arms over your head.
A sit-stand desk is not to train you to stand for 8 hours a day. Anyone who works on their feet all day will know that standing in one spot all day without reprieve is going to cause aches and pains. The reason sit-stand desks are becoming more popular is because it provides you with more opportunities to move your body during your work day and limit static muscle loading. A recent trial has shown that the introduction of a sit-stand workstation is effective in significantly reducing sitting throughout the week in office workers.
What type of sit-stand desk should I go for?
A fully-motorised height adjustable, full-sized desk is ideal for those who have the space and require multiple monitors. Use of a manual crank several times a day can get pretty tedious quickly so opt for preset heights activated by a button. There are also more compact versions which can be placed on top of an existing desk or dining table and can be great for those who don’t use two monitors or are limited for space. However, you can easily make a basic sit-stand set up with a few sturdy cardboard boxes or books while you WFH. Be sure to be using a separate monitor riser, keyboard and mouse as they are key for maximum adjustability.
General guidelines of ergonomics still apply:
Make sure the top ⅓ of the monitor is at your eye level
Upper arms should be as perpendicular to the ground as possible
Elbows should be flexed between 90-100degrees
How do I use it?
It can be useful to start the day standing as you may be less likely to remember to do some standing. Sit down when you feel like it, this could be within the first 10-30 minutes on your first try. That’s okay! As mentioned earlier the main thing is moving, stretching and shifting your weight side to side every 30-60 minutes. Stand for as long as you’re comfortable then alternate it with sitting several times throughout your work day. We would also suggest that you try standing after a meal to combat that rest and digest feeling in your stomach and increase productivity.
Remember, your best posture is your next posture so give a sit-stand desk a go!
For more tailored ergonomic advice, book in an appointment with Andy, Dave or Suyi. We can also conduct an ergonomic consultation via telehealth or in person to show you specific, easy and effective WFH modifications and exercises.
T.A. Alkhajah, M.M. Reeves, E.G. Eakin, E.A.H. Winkler, N. Owen, G.N. Healy. Sit–Stand Workstations: A Pilot Intervention to Reduce Office Sitting Time. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Volume 43, Issue 3, 2012, Pages 298-303, ISSN 0749-3797. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2012.05.027.
K. R. Lehman, J. P. Psihogios & R. G. J. Meulenbroek (2001) Effects of sitting versus standing and scanner type on cashiers, Ergonomics, 44:7, 719-738, DOI: 10.1080/00140130119569
Levine, J.A. Sick of sitting. Diabetologia 58, 1751–1758 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-015-3624-6
Chandrasekaran B, Ganesan TB. Sedentarism and chronic disease risk in COVID 19 lockdown - a scoping review. Scott Med J. 2021 Feb;66(1):3-10. doi: 10.1177/0036933020946336. Epub 2020 Jul 27. PMID: 32718266.