Making a stand

If you’ve been working in an office for the last few years, you have probably heard about the health dangers of sitting for hours on end. Sitting for too long at a time affects your metabolism rate, blood sugar, blood pressure, and the amount of fat that collects in your… er… hindquarters.

Just Google “the dangers of sitting” to learn why “sitting is the new smoking.”

Between my office job and my writing, I spend a lot of hours of the day at the keyboard, and until recently, all of my writing was done sitting down. That’s a lot of hours a day of sitting, and most of it in two or three hour blocks without a break. The last couple of years, it has become harder to keep off the weight and I developed a repetitive stress injury in my shoulder that didn’t improve significantly with any stretching/yoga/exercise. Ergonomically correct sitting is impossible for me due to a congenital condition. I have also found that office furniture is built for the average man’s height, which can be a problem for women, who are usually shorter, or for those who are taller than average.

Early this year, I made the decision to stand more to see if it would improve my health. I started with a couple of boxes on top of my desk at my home office to raise my laptop and second monitor to a standing position. While I quickly found out that a standing desk can be hard on the feet and legs, within a week my shoulder pain was gone. I made a similar adjustment to my computer at the office.

Standing Desk Ergonomics: How to Avoid Muscle Fatigue

Standing desk dilemma: Too much time on your feet?

I had used boxes to make temporary adjustments because I didn’t want to buy new furniture without being sure that I could maintain a standing desk lifestyle. I purchased an anti-fatigue mat for the office after a couple of weeks and was using a kneeling pad to cushion my feet at home, which I later replaced with a proper anti-fatigue mat.

I eventually bought risers for my desk at the office, and just this week for my desk at home. (Different models for different configurations.) In both cases, I have run into similar problems — the risers do not have independently adjustable levels for the monitor and the keyboard. The riser for my office was nice and high, bringing my monitor up to the right level, but would require me to type at chest level. I had to buy a separate keyboard and mouse stand that I could adjust to the correct height for my body.

At my home office, the configuration requires me to adjust the riser so that my keyboard is at the right level, but the monitor is too low. I currently have the monitor raised higher with another box. I am expecting to get a new monitor soon, and am waiting to see what kind of height adjustment it has before investing in a more permanent riser for it.

Good posture is important and I do still catch myself slouching while standing and need to correct my posture. The article below will help you to be sure your keyboard and monitor are are the correct heights.

Standing Desk Guide: Measurements, Examples and Benefits

While there are many health risks to sitting too much, there are also some issues with standing too much. Leg, foot, and back muscle pain are common, and varicose veins and increased cardiac risk are also possibilities. Some combination of sitting and standing is your best bet, so you either want an adjustable riser that you can lower or lift according to whether you want to stand or sit, or two separate stations, one sitting and one standing.

At the office I sit if I am writing by hand (filling forms, making notes, etc.) and over the lunch hour I use my personal laptop rather than my company desktop. I also have a second (and third) computer that I can use sitting down.

At home, I also sit down for the lunch hour, and at the end of the day I sit with my sweetie for a couple of hours. If I spend too much time typing while sitting, the shoulder pain returns (though not as bad as when I was doing it all day every day.) The riser that I am using at home is adjustable, so I can lower it back to sitting position if necessary.

For me, making the switch to a standing desk has definitely improved my RSI, and I hope that I will see longer-term benefits to my overall health.

How much of the day do you spend sitting? Do you need to make a change?

Comments

  1. Actually, a lot of evidence has been emerging that stand up desks can cause more harm than good over the long term (plug “stand up desk dangers” into you favorite search engine and take your pick of hits from reputable sources to read).

    It’s not an issue for me anymore since I’m retired (OK, I’m gloating). Back when I still was slave labor, I found a combination of sitting, standing, and walking worked best for me and I was fortunate to have jobs that usually let me do a mix of the three. Even now that I’m retired (yep, still gloating), I find it best for my old carcass when working (or playing) on the computer to get up every now and then to do something that involves standing and/or walking for a while. My bum, back, and feet thank me for it (otherwise, they use the most horrible language to talk back to me).

    • Yes, standing for too long can have problems too. I included some of them in my article, and linked to other articles with suggestions on how to address some of the issues that can come with standing. As I mentioned, I have either two workstations or an adjustable workstation and do some sitting jobs as well as standing work. As you say, a combination of sitting, standing, and getting away from the computer to do jobs that involve whole body movement is the best solution!

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