Standing desks are a great addition into the work force today. Studies are continually discovering the health benefits, productivity boosts, as well as improved moods for workers. The biggest improvement I have seen as a Master Level Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist has been in the musculo-skeletal side of things. I work with people in chronic pain, dysfunction, and frustration. Sitting has slowly crept up as an epidemic that has flown under the radar for the past half century. Our jobs have become more sedentary as we have created machines to do more of our manual labor jobs, and as technology has improved, more jobs have become a “desk job” instead of a “hands on” job. With the downturn of the economy in 2006-2008, the increase in hours and demands on the workers have increased. Where people used to work 8 hour days and sneak out early on Friday, they are now working 10, 12, and in some cases, clients I have even are working 16 hours straight. When you break down the hours, not only are we sitting at our jobs, we are now sitting more on the couch, in the car, at the dinner table, at restaurants… essentially the only time we aren’t sitting anymore is when we are going to the gym or when we are sleeping. This causes some serious changes and effects on the body such as:
Tight hip flexors, calves and hamstrings
Shoulders rounded forward
Forward positioned neck
Lower back, shoulder, neck and hip pain
Even if a person isn’t able to workout on a regular basis, just the act of standing more and moving more through the day can improve a lot of different biomechanical deficiencies. Their posture improves, their tight muscles relax, and their weak muscles get stronger. All of a sudden there is no need to jut their neck forward or round their shoulders. Their legs become unbound from under the desk and can allow their muscles to stretch and stay in the elongated position for longer periods of time. They don’t need to stretch as much on a regular basis because their muscles are held in their optimal position all day. Standing desks will also start to improve blood flow, cognition, posture, and even bloodwork. Several studies have cited productivity rose 50% over 6 months of implementing standing desks.
So why WOULDN’T someone immediately switch to a standing desk?
Although there are an astounding amount of benefits to standing desks, we want to make sure we ease into it. Just like running a 5k, or lifting heavy weights are beneficial for your health, you don’t want to start right into a competition for either without preparing your body and working up to the demands needed for the activity. You don’t want to just jump right in to standing 8 hours per day when your body has been used to sitting 8 hours per day
Here are some great pointers to make the transition to a standing desk:
Start moving more at your current desk. When you are on a phone call or have an opportunity to stand and still do work, try to stand or walk around as much as possible. If you have an adjustable standing desk, this can make the transition easier as well as you can sit and stand for different interval periods and gradually build your stamina.
Another important thing to consider is if your standing stabilizer muscles are ready to support you for extended periods of time. Some good exercises to do are calf raises to strengthen the calves and feet, glute presses or lunges to strengthen the legs and glutes, and planks to strengthen the abs and core. These will all play a big role in helping you stand for longer periods of time without foot pain, low back pain and hip pain.
Consider is your footwear. If you have been wearing high heels or fancier dress footwear, these may not be suitable for standing for prolonged periods. If your workplace will let you, try to wear supportive and well cushioned athletic sneakers.
Lastly, once you have transitioned to a standing desk, still try to make sure that you are moving around. Sit on the floor for a little bit, do some squats or some stretches as you go through the day. Just like sitting in one position for a prolonged period of time can be detrimental for your body, so can standing. Although standing is a much better position to maintain than seating, don’t forget our bodies were meant to move, and you want to make sure you are still allowing your joints to move and your muscles to stretch periodically.
Standing desks are one of the best investments you can make in your health, and I think as more and more companies catch on, it will snowball and we will hopefully look back and be astounded that people used to sit all day. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer if this is a possibility in the future, and show them that there are many studies out showing the health, postural, productivity, and mood benefits. Everybody wins when you stand up for your self!