Patient: Doctor, Doctor, it hurts when I don’t do this.
Doctor: Do that.
A play on the old joke rings true across millions of offices the world over with increasing frequency. The patient is complaining of pain when stationary for extended periods of time. The Doctor is recommending to not stay stationary, or in other words, keep moving.
Never before have so many of us worked in jobs that require sedentary sitting in the performance of our daily tasks, and we are starting to see the health problems directly resulting. Innovation, in light of this need, has introduced products that could help, such as ergonomic chairs, kneeler chairs, and workout balls. These designs give workers more opportunities to exercise or relieve tension in compressed areas, but they still do not solve the basic problem; the fact that people are sitting, practically motionless, for extended periods of time, day after day. One of the newer innovations in this arena, the Sit/Stand workstation, addresses this problem, but come with their own concerns.
One of the most common problems associated with sitting for extended periods is back pain. Whether a person sits with correct posture or not there will be some spinal compression, and a requirement to move. Standing at your desk changes the muscles and joints that are at work and at rest, giving those that are abused a break. Sit/Stand workstations force users to straighten the back to a greater degree than sitting. Correct posture remains half the battle however, and the use of a footrest is recommended to improve pelvic positioning. Just as a good ergonomic chair will only provide support and relief if used properly, the benefits of a Sit/Stand workstation are still dependent on the user standing straight, engaging alternating postures, setting the desk to the proper height, moving, and stretching.
Something that doctors, researchers and disappointed office workers everywhere are noting is that sedentary sitting can lead to weight gain. In fact, some experts are attributing much of the obesity problem in the United States to the prevalence of desk jobs in today’s society. A Sit/Stand workstation gets office workers on their feet, expending energy. Individuals may also be a little more inclined to move if they are already standing.
Alpa Patel with the American Cancer Society says that sitting too much is unhealthy enough to actually reduce life expectancy. In other words, those hours relaxing are taking years of life away. The worst part is that exercise won’t even counteract it. Whether a person works out frequently seems to be irrelevant. The body effects changes, such as a slower metabolic rate, when a person is in the seated position. The moment even highly active athletes sit down; these effects start to kick in. Do this for six or more hours a day and life is getting shorter, according to Patel.
Like other solutions to health problems such as this, they are best applied in moderation. Switch off and on so that the hours spent sitting are fewer. It is not necessary to spend eight hours or more standing at a desk. In fact, this can cause other issues including, you guessed it, lower back pain, and cardiovascular concerns. A few hours sitting followed by a few hours standing should do the trick. The point is to get up off the chair and shave that eight hours sitting down to a safer five hours or less.
Apply best practices while sitting or standing, do both in moderation, and move & stretch often.