Days of sitting down in the office for long hours at a time can lead to the development of chronic problems such as back pain, joint pain, and other conditions. In fact, various medical studies have shown that the longer the hours you spend in your chair, the higher your risk for diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cancer. These studies led to the diagnosis of ‘sitting disease,’ a condition that you cannot improve even if you go the gym in between periods of sitting. This is the reason why I decided to stop sitting and start standing up for my health, literally.
Health Benefits of Standing up at Work
In an article by Patrick J. Skerrett published in the Harvard Business Review, sitting for long periods at a time at the office does the body harm because the human body is designed for activity and movement, something which prolonged sitting restricts. This was proven by a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology which showed that prolonged periods of sitting and inactivity were directly linked to cardiovascular disease mortality. Standing offers a better solution since it strengthens the back, promotes better posture, and improves balance. It also burns more calories. According to Dr. Robert Schwartz standing up offers more benefits since it forces us to use more muscles, and it forces us to unconsciously shift our weight.
How I Made the Change
Making the change was easy. Standup desks are available in different sizes and heights, and most of them come in adjustable designs so you can adjust the height to what is comfortable for you. The addition of a standing mat made the transition easier for me as well. A standing desk mat, also known as an anti-fatigue mat is designed to take the pressure off your joints while standing. I knew that I would need a standing desk mat once I make the transition to the standing desk because I tend to feel pressure on my lower back after 30 minutes of standing. A good standing desk mat like the Lets Gel Inc standing desk mat was the perfect compliment to my standing desk. My Lets Gel Inc comfort standing desk mat has a shock absorbing gel core, which cradles my feet in a comfortable and cool gel cushion. Now I can stand for longer periods in comfort, without any risk of hurting my joints and back.
Healthy living requires that all things be done in moderation. Therefore, it is also important to note that while standing up at work does have its benefits, overdoing it can be harmful as well. Standing up should not be done excessively to the point that it causes too much pressure on the joints, even if you are using an anti-fatigue mat. I often take a rest and sit down or take a short walk in between periods of standing just to boost the circulation to my legs and experience a little bit of movement before diving back to work again.
I used to spend hours in the office, just sitting in front of computer engrossed in my work. The fact that I love my job and could easily become lost in it also contributed to the long hours in front of the computer that often went unnoticed. This continued until I started to feel a heaviness in my lower legs. A visit to the doctor revealed that there was poor circulation to my legs caused by excessive pooling of blood. I was advised to shorten the periods of sitting down in the office, and instead switch between standing and sitting to maintain normal circulation in my lower extremities.
Risks of Prolonged Sitting at the Office or At Home
Numerous medical studies have shown that sitting for long periods at a time can effectively put you at risk for various diseases like obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. According to Selene Yeager of Women’s Health Magazine, the phenomenon is called sitting disease, and it is characterized by prolonged sitting down, whether it is in front of the computer at work or in front of the TV at home which increases a person’s risk of developing serious health problems like joint pain, deep vein thrombosis, and even cancer. What’s worse, one study conducted by an Australian company revealed that we can not even exercise the effects of prolonged sedentary sitting away. Even if you exercise regularly and are serious about healthy living, if you spend too many hours sitting down, you are still at risk for developing these problems.
Making the Switch from a Conventional to a Stand-up Desk
A standing desk was the best option for me since it prevented me from staying on a sitting position for long periods. With all the designs and styles of standing desks now available in the market, it did not take me long to find a desk that suited my aesthetic style and height. I chose one that was adjustable and had a rotating surface, so I can adjust it to a comfortable height and I could move around without leaving my desk.
The hours you spend on a standing desk should be done in moderation as well. Despite all its healthy benefits, standing up for very long periods can also predispose a person to joint and leg pain. Overweight people may experience pressure on their sacral bones and joints due to the weight. This is the reason why I also bought an anti-fatigue mat when I bought my standing desk. My Genuine Joe Air Step standing desk mat completed my standing desk office ensemble and made the transition from a regular desk to a standing desk so much easier on my body. This gel mat provides a soft but firm cushioning for my feet and offers great insulation from the cold office floors.
Not many people realize this but sitting at your desk to do eight hours of work is probably the most dangerous thing for your health. A study published in the American Epidemiology has stated a very interesting fact. According to them, an average person can actually increase his or her lifespan by decreasing the amount of time they spend sitting at their desk. You might be working out every day and you might have revamped your diet as well but if you sit at your desk for more than eight hours every day; you are at serious risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. If you want to back up your healthy living, ensure that you use a standing desk.
Standing Desks: The New Alternative
Standing desks are now being considered as the best alternative for office workers. It’s not a new invention as standing desks have been around since the early 19th century. Several designs were popular with students and even Thomas Jefferson used a standing desk to carry on with his day to day work. As an alternative, he often used adjustable slanted top worktables along with high stools which were very comfortable. Variations on the same design are now being used in offices. Wall mounted desks, drafting table designs, telephone desks and many other variations are available along with adjustable stools. One of the most popular modern adjustable varieties is the this adjustable sitting to standing desk, available on Amazon.
Benefits of Standing Desks
Medical researchers have stated that apart from the immediate benefits of no back pain, standing desks offer a range of other healthy advantages. Sitting for a long period of time reduces muscle activity, heart rate, and calorie burning and even insulin and cholesterol usage. This means that you while you are sitting you are actually gaining weight by adding to your waistline and worsening blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels. Your body also stops producing lipoprotein lipase and other hormones and enzymes that are essential for destroying stored fat cells. However, at a standing desk, your heart rate is elevated about ten beat more than normal in order to push blood towards your feet and back towards your heart again. Apart from the increased heart work, you are also exercising your leg, thigh and upper hip muscles resulting in better muscle tone and lower fat accumulation in this region. Standing desks also ensure that your back muscles are toned to produce improved posture. Due to the constant standing, your focus on your work improves as well. You don’t feel sleep and your are more active.
Switching to a standing desk
If you are not used to working while standing, a standing desk will take some adjustment. Place the desk on top of a standing desk mat to provide better support for your feet. The mat is also necessary as it has an essential anti-fatigue feature to protect your feet and lower back.
If you are anything like me, a typical workday for you would consist of sitting in traffic for 30 to 40 minutes, and then sitting at a computer through an eight, sometimes nine, hour shift before taking that same drive home. That is a lot of sitting. Recently I became concerned about this when I went to see my doctor and was told exactly how much weight I had put on since my last visit. Immediately, after leaving her office I began thinking of ways to convert my sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle into more active, healthy living.
Aside from the weight gain, most days I felt like I had just run a marathon, even though I had been sitting for most of the day. I just felt fatigued and sluggish. I knew that I had to make some major changes in my life but I didn’t know where to start. I started writing down things that I could do to combat fatigue, amp up my stamina, and lose the extra pounds. My plan for a healthier lifestyle was: take the stairs. Take a walking lunch. And stretching exercises at my desk every 15-30 minutes.
Although the three things on my list seemed simple and easy to do, after about two weeks, I began slacking off. So, instead of taking the stairs every day I began taking them once or twice a week or not at all. My walking lunch became a walk to the cafeteria and back to my desk, and the snickers and snarky looks I got from co-workers when I did my intermittent stretching became too distracting. My plan for healthy living was soon abandoned.
It wasn’t long before I fell right back into my old routine. Then one day I stopped by my local Staples to pick up some computer paper and happened upon an exceptionally tall desk. I asked a store clerk and was informed it was a standing desk. I was also told that not only were standing desks created for healthy living, they were also helped with posture. Well, that was all I needed to hear. I wanted one of those desk even if I had to pay for it myself.
Fortunately, my wonderful employer decided to provide standing desks, and standing desk mats to whoever wanted them. It was quite an adjustment for the first few days. My feet were killing me. The standing desk mat helped a lot. I particularly love the Crown Comfort King Anti-fatigue Standing Desk Mat. Not only does it reduce the pressure on my feet, it increases my mobility. Now I have more stamina, lost the extra weight, and I feel great.
Being an office employee, I would spend hours just sitting on my chair as I drafted reports day in and day out. Before long I was feeling back and neck pains that would just not go away. This confused me at first, since I exercised regularly and was a big fan of healthy living. This led me to read about what was causing these problems and I realized that sitting down for more than 8 hours a day everyday was the problem.
Dangers of Too Much Sitting Down
Numerous studies have shown that too much sitting down in the home or in the office can lead to serious health problems down the road. According to an article by MSNBC sitting down for long periods can raise a person’s risk of a heart attack. According to CBS San Francisco, research has shown that people who spent the majority of their days sitting down, whether it is in front of the computer, in front of the wheel or in front of the TV are more likely to have heart attacks and develop chronic problems like obesity and even cancer. In fact, too much sitting down is probably just as harmful to your body as smoking. It surely was the reason why I was feeling unhealthy and why my joints ached for no reason at all.
The Benefits of Switching to Standing Desks
Standing desks resemble drafter’s desks that are about waist high and are adjustable to any height. My standing desk was fitted with a monitor holder where I attached my monitor while my keyboard rested on the platform below it. I could comfortably do the things I used to do while sitting down, now while standing, and it felt better. There was no pressure on my sacral bones or spine, and the pain on my back disappeared. The slightly heavy sensation that I used to feel on my legs was also gone. Standing restored the normal circulation back to my legs and being on my feet caused me to shift my weight from one side to another, which further improved my circulation. Being on the move while standing also helped burn calories since I was on my feet as I answered emails and took phone calls.
However, I would not have found the transition from a conventional desk to a standing desk that easy had it not been for my comfortable Sublime Imprint Nantucket anti-fatigue mat (Read review). This standing desk mat gave my feet a comfortable but firm surface to stand on and eased the pressure off my knees. Although I spend more time standing than sitting down, I feel more comfortable, and I did not experience any difficulty transitioning from a conventional sit-down desk to a more ergonomic standing desk.