We are at a low point in human history right now, literally. As a people, we are sitting the most amount of time ever in human history. Even just 20 years ago, we got much more exercise than we do now. Remember going to the bank and waiting on line, and depositing your hard earned paycheck (literally a paper check!)? Or how about walking in a shopping mall and going from store to store every weekend? Now we have our salaries directly deposited to our bank, most of our things delivered to our doorstep and shopping while sitting on the couch.
All this sitting is taking its toll. We are becoming more obese and along with that, the incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure is also increasing. Prolonged sitting is also leading to chronic back pain. I believe that fifty years from now, we will look back on sitting the same way we look at smoking now. Why the hell were we sitting for so long throughout the day? Isn’t it obvious that sitting is killing us?
Is there a solution to this chronic sitting? Yes, let’s start standing. There are many standing desks available on the market. Many companies now provide sit/stand convertible desks for their employees. Some of them even make it mandatory that their employees use this type of desk! Quite progressive thinking in my opinion. You can’t expect workers to sit at their desks for eight to ten hours each day, working for several years, and not realize that they are going to suffer health consequences over the long term.
Are there downsides to standing desks? Yes, while the standing desk can alleviate pressure on the spine, it can worsen any preexisting knee, ankle or foot issues. Some people will slouch over the standing desk, especially if the height is too low. Here are a few tips to prevent these issues:
- Avoid standing all day. I personally believe 100% standing is not the ideal solution. I would recommend perhaps our day should be divided, about 60-75% standing and 25-40% sitting. So a typical schedule would be to start the day off standing, sit from noon and an hour after lunch (I believe sitting is better for digestion than standing), then raising it back up for the rest of the day. This way, when you come back to work the next day, the desk is in the standing position ready to start over. I often see people who are very enthusiastic about standing desks for about one month, then they get “bored with the new toy” and end up just sitting at the desk. Make sure you are consistent with using the standing desk and keep using it.
- Purchase an “antifatigue mat“. this is a squishy cushion-type area rug that relieves the stress on your feet. Standing all day on a hard surface can take it’s toll on your feet. Ask any waitress or cashier, and I’m sure they will tell you they wished they had a “sitting” job.
- Wear comfortable shoes. Now that you are standing for longer periods of time, any weakness or inadequate support to your feet can result in pronounced pain or stress on the small bones and joints. Obviously, wearing high heels, flats, or being barefoot would not be advisable. I usually recommend wearing sneakers or a dress shoe that is designed with a good arch support.
- Stretch every so often. Here are some stretches to loosen up the lower back.
If you don’t currently have a standing desk, you can try to avoid sitting. Set your smart phone to buzz every hour to remind you to take a “standing break”. How about standing when you are answering a phone call, or use a headset during a conference call, so you can stand up and walk around? Some smart watches and activity trackers can also alert you to move if you’ve been sitting too long.