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You’ve probably been warned repeatedly about the harms of being in a seated position for long periods of time at work. In fact, you’ve probably felt the aches in your lower back or the constant need to stretch out your neck. Then there are the unseen consequences that build up over time—the increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancers. Even suffering an early death has been linked with our proclivity to sit 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
To curtail these downsides, many people are switching to a sit and stand desk at their workplace. This ergonomic desk raises and lowers with the touch of a button and allows you to stretch your legs and increase blood flow. But what many people don’t realize is that being at a standing workstation for long hours comes with its own set of health problems. Serious ones, too.
Knowing how to stand at a standing desk properly is not only beneficial to your health, but it will contribute to a long and productive day.
Visualize the body when in a seated position at your desk. The weight of your torso rests upon your hips. Your legs are resting in front of you. And most likely, your head and shoulders are hunched slightly forward toward your computer. Here, it’s easy to see the different pain points that come from sitting:
Now, imagine yourself at a standing workstation. Your feet are flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart, and your arms are in front, typing away at your computer. With great posture, this seems like a healthy way of working. Unfortunately, standing with great posture will last about five to ten minutes. Once your legs get tired, you’ll shift your hips. When your back gets tired, you’ll hunch forward and maybe lean on the desk. Even this slight misalignment affects the body.
When standing for prolonged periods of time, what you don’t see is how blood pools in the legs. Because you’re not flexing muscles and pushing the blood back up (as one would when walking or jogging), the blood vessels expand. Some of the smaller capillaries even burst under the pressure. This is one of the main factors why standing for long hours has twice the risk 1 of incident heart disease.
Unfortunately, nothing can be done about this. We’re all doomed to return to our hunched over ancestors and suffer from a lack of lumbar support… Just kidding, of course! There’s a proper way to go about using a sit-stand workstation to your advantage. The key ingredients to remember are posture, support, and movement. These are going to be your standing desk best practices.
First things first, posture. Having proper posture is a mixture of the external and the internal. You must curate a setup that invites proper posture and continuously remind yourself to stand tall. It’s a practice that takes work, but in the end, it’s worth it.
Beginning with the external: your workstation. If the position of your desk and screen are misaligned, it will invite you to hunch or strain. Once in the correct spot, you’ll notice the effort disappears and merely using your workstation means having proper posture.
Diving into the details:
If you’ve never practiced correct posture when in a standing position, it’s going to feel awkward. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overcompensate and strain your back. Try to make incremental adjustments with long-term goals. If you’re unsure about how to do it, here is a breakdown of the full-body posture.
Quick tip: If it feels awkward, try setting up your phone to record your normal resting position and your correct posture position. Keep practicing and recording until you get the hang of it!
This might be the most challenging part of correcting bad posture. Just remembering that you need to square the hips, pull the shoulders back, and tilt the chin is half the battle. If you’ve ever tried meditation, the practice is similar.
In the beginning, you’re going to be reminding yourself every five to ten minutes. As you get better, that’ll become every ten to fifteen minutes, then every twenty minutes. Soon enough, remaining in a healthy standing position will be your norm.
If you’re struggling to remember, try:
The first place to feel pain is generally in the joints. These are the points where your bones are attached. With the excess pressure pressing down on your body (especially the lower half), you’re going to experience discomfort. This is where having support comes in handy.
As like most things in life, standing desks (and sitting desks, for that matter) are best enjoyed in moderation. Jumping from a typical workstation to a full-time standing desk will cause unnecessary pain and may even cause damage to your joints. So take your time, and ease into it. Build movement and rhythm into your routine. Alternating between sitting and standing is going to give you the best results. After all, working how you feel most comfortable is the beauty of sit-stand desk ergonomics.
The ideal amount of sitting, standing, and movement throughout the workday is 4 hours of sitting in a chair and 4 hours of standing and movement. However, this won’t be achieved immediately. It takes time to build up the right muscles and habits.
Start with making your goal 1 hour a day. That’s four sessions of 15 minutes each. Each time you finish a 15-minute session, take a quick 2-minute walk to recirculate the blood before you sit down.
As you increase your goal, try to keep the standing sessions to a maximum of 30 minutes for every 2-minute walking break. And if you start to feel any discomfort take the rest of the day off from standing.
Standing desks are odd tools to get used to. The idea of standing and working is going to create some mental pushback, but gaining the health benefits of a sit and stand desk is worth it. To improve your standing desk experience, try these:
If you look back to the previous section How to Stand With Correct Posture, you can probably intuit what exercises will assist with your posture. Stretches that target the ankles, knees, and hips will help. As will strengthening exercises for your lower back, shoulders, and neck.
For a few targeted exercises, try these at home or at the gym:
You can also try doing a few quick exercises right at your desk.
Once you’ve mastered the perfect posture, set up your workspace, and added movement into your day, you will begin to experience the wonders of standing desk benefits. With the extra blood pumping and increased oxygen intake, your productivity levels will soar and your health risks will plummet. All those unseen consequences that build up over time will be out of the picture, and you can continue to shape a positive, healthy future.
Remember that building muscles and habits to sustain for hours of standing at work takes time. Try not to be discouraged and always listen to your body. With a Mount-It motorized standing desk, you can set alarms that will help ease your joints into this new working environment.