SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – It’s a well-known fact that too little exercise and endless sitting can be hazardous to your health — as well as your waistline.
So if you work at a “desk job”, is a standing desk the answer? Our health expert, Karen Owoc, joins us this morning to weigh in on the solutions.
The Pitfalls of Prolonged Sitting
• Studies have found that long hours of sitting are linked to risk of heart failure and disability, and shorten life expectancy.
• Is a stability ball or is standing the answer?
The Pitfalls of Prolonged Standing
• There may be negative health effects from sitting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that standing is the solution and a standing desk is the answer.
• Prolonged and frequent standing has “side effects” and a variable height desk is NOT appropriate for everyone. Side effects include:
• Sore feet, swelling of the legs (blood pools in the legs/feet), varicose veins, general muscular fatigue, low back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, and other health problems.
• Per a 2005 study in Denmark, long bouts of standing can lead to a higher risk for being hospitalized for varicose veins in the legs (swollen, twisted, and enlarged veins; damaged valves).
Who Should Not Stand for Long Periods
It may be inappropriate for the following people to stand at their desks if they have:
• Poor posture, back pain, swelling (legs/feet)
• Obesity, knee arthritis, varicose veins
• Heart failure or lung disease (puts an additional load on the circulatory system)
• Sitting requires less energy (about 20% less) than standing and helps keep the body stable, so certain tasks are better performed while sitting down, such as those requiring:
- Fine motor skills (e.g., driving, computer work, creating detailed drawings, video editing, fine micro-surgery)
- High levels of concentration and focus
How to Stand
Prolonged and frequent standing needs some relief by walking and fitting in suitable rest periods to relax.
• Standing is a physical activity, so you have to ease into using a standing desk (just like a new exercise). Pace work appropriately.
• To avoid back, leg, or foot pain, start standing at your desk in moderation — for 30 to 60 minutes and gradually increase the duration.
• Keep your feet and legs moving. Exercise them. Don’t stand statically.
• Wear the right shoes.
• Is a treadmill desk, bicycle, or elliptical workstation the answer?
• These workstations have been tested also and have shown to slow down typing and mousing and increase mistakes.
How to Sit — Follow the 20-8-2 Work Pattern
According to a study published in the European Heart Journal, your health is affected by how long you sit at your desk as well as how many breaks you take.
• Sit for 20 minutes at a time (with best posture)
• Stand for 8 minutes (with best posture)
• Move for 2 minutes (movement is critical for blood circulation throughout the muscles)
• By following the 20-8-2 work pattern, an 8-hour workday would equate to:
• 5 hours of sitting
• 2 hours of standing
• 30 minutes of moving
• 16 sit-to-stand changes
Is a Standing Desk Worth the Investment?
Studies have shown that the majority of standing desk users eventually start sit-ting more and standing less, and after one month they go back to sitting all the time.
Practical Work Behavior Tips
Rearranging your work area and changing your work habits might make more sense and would cost less, such as:
• Move your printer, copier, and trash/recycling bin into the hallway, so you have to walk to them.
• Use the restroom farthest from your work station.
• Stand up during phone calls.
• Stand for a meeting (whether in-person, or via Zoom, etc.)
• Take the stairs.
• Whether sitting or standing, make sure there’s enough room to move around and to your change body position.
The Takeaway: Take more breaks more often. This concept not only applies to sedentary workers, but to retirees, and students. Whether you’re sitting and working, studying, or watching TV, follow the “20-8-2” rule.