Earlier this summer, someone gave me a great piece of advice: they said “everything in moderation… even moderation.”. I was immediately taken with this mindset (granted, they said this as they were handing me a substantial piece of ice cream cake) and I immediately thought that it could be applied to most aspects of life, especially sitting.
I know what your thinking- “Robin, you think about sitting too much just eat the ice cream cake.” - and, yeah bro! You’re right, I do think about sitting all. the. time. I am a chairperson! I work for a chair company! It’s my thing! But moreover than just being a “chair person” , I’m an ergonomics person… and I think the secret sauce for living a sustainably ergonomic lifestyle is “everything in moderation… even moderation”
The purpose of this blog is to offer free educational content to help you have a better grasp on how to properly care for yourself while you work and we’d be doing you a major disservice if we merely focused on sitting.
A really hot topic right now is the standing desk and whether or not we should be giving up sitting while we work all together. This week we are going to dive into the standing desk- best practices for using it, life hacks in the workplace, how to find the right height, risks to using one, etc, etc, blah blah blah...
Pros To The Standing Desk.
The best part about standing while you work is how much it can contribute to your boosting energy and mood levels. During those sluggish hours in the late afternoon when you’re most tempted to slump back into your chair and lose focus, standing can force you to stay alert and may help you to focus on the tasks at hand.
There are sources who claim that standing while you work lowers the risk of obesity, heart disease, and cancer- I’ve been unable to find consistent evidence to prove these facts so I’m unable to say if whether or not this is necessarily true. One study at Harvard found that sitting and typing burns about 80 calories an hour and standing and typing burns about 88 calories so… that’s something, but perhaps not enough to lower your risk of obesity. Standing definitely feels more active than sitting but it’s still not necessarily “movement”. For comparison- standing at a desk for an hour burns approximately 88 calories but walking for an hour burns 210.
Optimal Standing Posture.
Just like sitting there’s a healthy and unhealthy way to use a standing desk- luckily the rules are pretty transferable from sitting to standing posture.
Here are some tips for finding and maintaining good posture while working from a standing desk and the best ways to avoid body pain while standing:
- Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
- No bending or jutting out of your chin and neck- keep it in neutral.
- No forward or backward slouching, keep your spine straight. (Pro tip: if you’re unsure if your slouching visualize a string coming from the top of your head and pulling you upward, or if you need a more physical tool try standing flat against a wall or balancing a book on the top of your head- that oughta do it!
- Shift your weight, don’t lock in stiffly in place. Try playing some music to help inspire some movement (even if just a little)
- Keep your knees “soft” meaning don’t lock them out. Rigidness is no way to accomplish a healthy posture.
- Make sure your desk is at a level where your wrists can be parallel while you type
- Your hands should be directly over your keyboard without hunching forward to prevent shoulder pain.
Risks Of Standing And Working.
Just like getting a new chair, deciding to use a standing desk will require a period of transition. You will likely experience sore feet, legs, and back. We recommend easing into the standing lifestyle, starting with 30 or 60 minutes standing a day and working your way up.
Like everything in life too much standing puts you at risk for certain ailments that could become chronic injuries if bad habits are consistently repeated. Varicose veins being a big one. Varicose veins are superficial veins that have become enlarged and twisted. Typically they occur just under the skin in the legs. Usually, they result in few symptoms but some may experience fullness or pain in the area.
Back pain, of course, is a risk as well. Too much standing in one place, especially on hard floors or in certain footwear can cause compression or put pressure on our backs.
The third and perhaps most harmful thing to look out for is carpal tunnel syndrome. This is obviously a risk when sitting as well, but with a standing desk, it’s much more likely you could have the desk at the improper height for healthy typing and end up injuring yourself. It’s likely your initial instinct when choosing the height for your standing desk would be to set it so your computer monitor is at eye level for you (which is partially true) but if that’s the case, it will likely be putting your wrists in a compromised position while you type. Your standing desk should be at a height that allows your wrists to be completely parallel while typing- this will force you to still boost your screen up. You can either buy a proper laptop stand or even stack your monitor up on a stack of books.
If you have committed to the standing desk lifestyle but notice fatigue in your legs or back in during the day there are some ways to combat that. The number one thing we recommend is to getting yourself a footstool so you can prop one foot up and every so often shift your weight onto the other foot. This will take some of the pressure off your back and help you to shift your posture without having to be too conscious of it and get distracted from your tasks. There are also many different types of anti-fatigue mats you can put under your feet while you work. This will add some extra cushioning to protect you from the damage hard floors can cause you.
Everything in Moderation.
I know it may sound a bit cliche but I really do believe in the old adage of everything in moderation. Alan Hadge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University says that the best routine for healthy working is to spend 20 minutes sitting, 8 minutes standing and 2 minutes moving around. This is a routine we can imagine ourselves getting behind and enough to get us to run out and buy an adjustable sit/stand desk. Professor Hadge also suggests setting an alarm to remind yourself when to switch it up…. And this is where my beliefs of “everything in moderation… even moderation” comes into play.
If your workflow doesn’t mind a quick interruption every 20 minutes or so, then Professor Hadge’s suggestion is aces, your body and concentration will thank you. But, the truth of the matter is sometimes a girl needs to shut off all notifications, close the door, plugin and work for an extended period of time without looking up. Distraction and disruption can be the ultimate idea killers and if we are flowing through a particularly focused based project and groovin’ through it the last thing we need to have an alarm that goes off every 20 minutes and to have to adjust our full work set up. Sometimes you need to stay sitting (or standing) for 90 minutes uninterrupted and that’s okay- it’s not going to harm you and long as you manage to remain mindful throughout the majority of the day.
This may sound crazy, but it’s important to find balance within the balance. To make sure that you’re moving and adjusting your posture when the work allows it, and to also know when it’s time to hunker down and work through something. I will often do what I call productivity sprints where I work for 90 minutes straight and then break for 20. I’ll do that a couple of times a day when need be and otherwise, I stick to the 20 and 8 rule as much as I can.
Okay- so I know my whole “everything in moderation, even moderation” stance on things is a sort of grey area and you’re likely here looking for some cold hard ANSWERS, and I’ve always been a people pleaser so I want to hook you up with my best tips to add movement into your day without even really noticing.
Life Hack #1: Set up your workspace so that you’re forced to move around. Do you print documents a couple of times a day? Put the printer down the hall so you have to walk to go get your document!
Life Hack #2: Spend a lot of time on the phone? Get a hands free headset and take the call standing or pace the room/ hallway while you chat. A great way to get your steps in!
Life Hack #3: Decide to get lunch at that place that’s just a bit further than your usual, or if you brown bag it, take the time you save from not having to wait in line for your overpriced salad and take a lap around the block. Get some air, some sun and more of those precious steps.
Life Hack #4: If you don’t manage to get your steps in during the day and you spend most of the time sitting, try standing while you binge your favorite shows when you get home. It may not sound like the coziest option, but your body will thank you.
Life Hack #5: Park at the other end of the parking lot when you go to the grocery store instead of trying to find a spot right next to the door- those few extra steps will go a long way.
Life Hack #6: Take the STAIRS! A classic that never goes out of style.
Life Hack #7: Get off one bus or subway stop before your usual stop- this is my favorite because I’m always looking for an excuse to get off the busy transit as fast as possible.
So there you have it- a chair person’s take on the standing desk.
I’m all for standing desks if they are adjustable. The sit-stand desk may be the best solution out there for people seeking ergonomic balance (which, btw, we all should be). Pairing a desk like this with a kneeling chair is doubly ergonomically awesome.
So what do you have to say about all this “moderation” business? Do you think standing at work is a great solution or just another way to be distracted during the day? Let us know how you feel about sitting/ standing/ sit standing below in the comments! Engage with us! It’s so validating for us!