Spending those long hours sitting in the same fixed posture at a desk is doing your body no good and may even be causing long term damage; but the growing adoption of height adjustable desks in South Africa may prove the antidote.
Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says people weren’t designed to sit at a desk all day.
“But we’re seeing growing demand for sit stand desks from our clients in South Africa. Giving workers the choice of adjusting the height of a desk can make a big difference helping people to work more healthily and productively as well as relieving back and joint discomfort.”
Importance of movement and variation
“While a good quality office chair offers great comfort and support, it can only go so far. As a result it’s always a good idea to get up out of your chair regularly through the day,” noted Andrews.
In reality what often happens is we get involved with our work and end up sitting far too long until the aches and pains set in and force us to move.
The beauty of sit and stand working is it allows you to work in a wide variety of postures that can’t be achieved while sitting.
“It helps to make for a far more natural way of working. And by taking note of our body’s signals of fatigue and stress all that’s needed is a change of work position. This wide variation of movement keeps the body more active and healthy,” says Andrews.
Benefits to office workers
Variable height desk workers often report significant benefits when changing from straight sitting all day to this more flexible working method:
• It keeps them in better shape physically
• It helps to control weight as additional activity burns off excess calories
• An ability to focus and concentrate more effectively
• A greater level of energy
• Feeling more engaged in their work
• A much wider variety of positions, many of which can’t be achieved with a chair
• Less aches and pains through being more active
A recent study shows the long-term harm of prolonged sitting. The American Cancer Society undertook a study of 120 000 people with no prior history of serious illness.
It discovered mortality rates rose by 37% for women and 18% for men who worked more than 6 hours a day sitting, when compared to those sitting for less than 3 hours a day.
How to fight back against sitting
“There is a fundamental difference between the pressures on the body when sitting and standing,” says Andrews. “When standing, your body’s weight is spread through the hips, knees and ankles. Prolonged sitting inflicted undue pressure on the back’s discs. A standing position reduces pressure on your back and allows weight to be carried via the legs.”
A study carried out by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Laboratory at Cornell University found computer users noticed a marked decrease in musculoskeletal pain after only 4 to 6 weeks of working at a height adjustable desk.
Dr. Delgado, a Cape Town based Chiropractor, has advised that we also need to establish a healthy work pattern. As a rule of thumb, every 30 minutes of work should be spent as follows:
· 20 minutes sitting
· 8 minutes standing
· 2 minutes moving / stretching
Says Andrews: “Although this way of working is radically different to a conventional office desk, it’s clear there is little problem to adapting to it for new users. In fact as the work position is so easy to alter it makes it very simple to pace yourself and adapt to the new way of working at a rate that suits you. However people should always have the choice and work in the way that is most comfortable for them.”
Long hours, slouching, slumping, and straining can dominate the office. Clean up your act around the computer, before bad habits lead to poor health.
Here are five ways to make sure your computer desk doesn’t become the death of you.
- Give your monitor a second look
If your screen is planted directly on your desktop, it’s time to ask management for a raise — for your computer’s display. According to Dr. Jim Sheedy, director of the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University, the top of your the screen should be level with your eyes. The ideas is to get the eyes looking down about 10 degrees. If it’s any lower or higher, computer users will adapt to it by moving their head. If your screen is to low, your head points down, causing neck and back aches. High displays, meanwhile, contribute to dry eye syndrome.
- Poor posture? Take it on the chin
Poor posture is something that every office-based employee should consider throughout their day. Most people sitting at a computer get drawn into the screen, which means they crane their necks forward. This imbalance puts strain on the neck and spine. It’s like holding a bowling ball with one hand, says Dr. James Bowman, of Portland, Ore.-based Solutions Chiropractic. If your arm is vertical underneath, it puts less strain on the muscles, but lean that ball forward and your muscles have to compensate to keep it aloft. Sitting at a desk, that bowling ball is actually our head, so Bowman recommends chin retractions, or making a double chin, to keep the neck and spine lined up underneath.
“It’s probably the most effective single exercise you can do for the upper back and neck,” he says.
- Stand up for yourself
The modern workplace was built around the concept of sitting, but humans’ ability to stand goes back millions of years. Buck the trend of the office era with a standing desk — or, if that’s too radical, a sit-stand workstation. According to research out of the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, sit-stand workstations helped workers replace 25% of their sitting time with standing up, which can increase their sense of well being and decreased their fatigue and appetite. The Jarvis Desk can go from 26-inches to 51-inches at the push of a button, lifting up to 350 pounds of whatever’s on your desk—including multiple monitors.
“I definitely feel healthier standing while working as it causes me to be more focused on my posture and ‘hold’ myself better in terms of my stomach and shoulders especially,” says Dan McCormack, who uses a Jarvis Desk at his home office in Austin, Texas.
- Move it or lose it
But why stand when you could walk? Many offices around the country are getting wise to treadmill desks, which can help workers burn 100 calories more per hour over sitting, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.
“The most important thing is to switch it up and work in different positions throughout the day,” says Emily Couey, Eventbrite’s vice president of people. The online event ticketing service offers multiple workspace options including traditional sitting desks, standing desks, and treadmill desks, which Couey says “people love, because it allows them move while they work — especially those with fitness trackers counting their daily steps.”
- Pace yourself
All work and no play makes Jack a bad employee. Whether it’s on their phone in the bathroom or on the computer in their cube, everyone takes sanity breaks to check their Facebook or read some news. The Pomodoro Technique even encourages this kind of behavior by breaking tasks into “pomodoros,” intense 25 minute work bursts, followed by five-minute breaks. Named because they can be measured using little tomato-shaped kitchen timers (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato), this method lets people work intensely and stave off distraction, yet rewards them with time to goof off, as well. If you don’t have a tomato timer handy, there are a lot of apps online to keep track of your sessions. But Francesco Cirillo, the technique’s founder, recommends using the real deal.
By John Patrick Pullen for www.motto.time.com