Studies show the relationship between early mortality and sitting for too long, regardless of how much exercise a person does.
Standing has become a very popular way to be more productive and healthy at work. This is reflected in the rising popularity of standing desks. However, for people who are just beginning to stand at their desk, fatigue and boredom can be significant hurdles to overcome.
Below are 8 ways employees can resist the urge to sit back down when standing at work, plus best practices for how often to stand, sit and move throughout the day.
1. Maintain a Proper Posture
Standing properly and maintaining a good posture is key to remaining energized and to receive the positive benefits from standing. Improper or inefficient postures in the long term can damage muscles, spinal discs, joints and ligaments, and result in Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), such as muscle fatigue, low back pain, thoracic outlet syndrome, arthritis, tenosynovitis and more.
A Good Standing Posture involves the Following:
Feet are about shoulder width apart
Knees are slightly bent, so that leg muscles support the weight of the torso
Chin is parallel to the floor
Nose is between the toes
Shoulders are even and relaxed
Spine is neutral and straight, with no flexing or arching
Abdominal muscles are engaged
Hips are even
Body weight is evenly distributed between both feet
The American Chiropractic Association states that good posture enables the correct alignment and proper function of the spine, muscles and joints. In other words, if a person is not standing properly they can be on the receiving end of a multitude of health issues over time, such as lower back pain, leg pain and cardiovascular problems.
2. Wear the Right Shoes
Having footwear with proper arch and sole support goes a long way in helping employees stand longer when working at a standing desk, by easing tension on the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Most of the body’s weight should be on the balls of the feet.
A good pair of shoes should maintain the arch of the feet and support the soles. Since foot size and shape varies greatly, each employee should wear shoes that they consider comfortable. Types of recommended shoes include professional clogs, comfortable sneakers, or running shoes with excellent cushioning. Obviously, the type of shoe worn also depends on workplace dress codes.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety suggests using shoe inserts and compression hosiery to counter the adverse effects of standing for long periods of time. Those who simply wish to modify their existing shoes for improved posture can invest in quality comfortable insoles, especially in a professional work environment with strict dress codes. Compression stockings can prevent fluid buildup in the legs that may otherwise lead to varicose veins.
3. Alternate between Sitting, Standing and Walking
There is a great deal of muscle activity in the lower limbs when standing as opposed to sitting. As with most things in life, moderation is key. Standing shouldn’t be the only position when working at a desk. In fact, standing for too long also has its share of negative effects on health.
In moderate doses, standing engages the thigh muscles, burns more calories than sitting does, and promotes better vascular health. During long periods of standing, legs may begin to cramp as gravity starts to weigh down the entire body, leading to health issues.
A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety shows that prolonged standing at work leads to lower back and leg pain, cardiovascular problems, and numerous issues for pregnant employees.
The solution is to alternate between sitting, standing and walking throughout the day.
Regularly changing postures (postural rotation) can prevent illnesses and injuries associated with prolonged standing. Accurate Ergonomics recommends routinely rotating work positions, avoiding extreme movements, spacing out tasks to prevent strain, and taking adequate breaks. A good ratio between sitting, standing and moving is:
Sit for 30 minutes
Move about for 2 minutes (walk in place, stretch)
Stand for 30 minutes
Move about for 2 minutes (walk in place, stretch, walk to the restroom)
Stand for a minimum of 15-10 minutes per hour
4. Vary Standing Postures
Practice “active standing” to receive the benefits from standing. Just like a person should alternate between sitting and standing, when standing one should not always assume the same rigid posture at all times. Employees should vary the way they stand from time to time as this engages different parts of the leg and core muscles, and reduces boredom and fatigue.
Use a floor mat: A floor or anti-fatigue standing mat with a rubberized texture and mixed terrain help engage different parts of leg muscles as one stands. Some mats come with massage mounds to sooth the feet when they get sore.
Use a foot rest: A foot rest helps shift the weight between the legs as one stands, resting the legs periodically without sitting back down and breaking a routine. Utilizing a foot rest also helps maintain the proper curvature of the spine and reduces stress on the back. There are many different types of footrests available, including models that are height adjustable.
5. Stretch Routinely
Occasional stretches are essential to alleviate the weight on the spine from maintaining the same posture, giving back and leg muscles a much needed break. Stretching and moving about also stimulates healthy blood circulation, as standing in the same position results in preferential blood flow to the lower limbs due to gravity.
Accurate Ergonomics recommends stretching the: head and neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, calf and leg muscles, wrists, hands and fingers.
Stretching also gives a person a brief respite from extended postures, which can prevent common hand injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome (a painful wrist condition due to compression of the median nerve) and tenosynovitis (tendon inflammation from repetitive actions), or leg issues like varicose veins (enlarged veins of pooled blood) and muscle fatigue.
6. Exercise Core Muscles
Exercises that strengthen the core, the abdominal and lower back muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis improve posture, especially when standing. The core muscles in the abdomen should be developed so that they can support the weight of the back. A weak core can lead to slouching and back pain.
7. Get a Sit-Stand Chair
Sit-stand chairs enable a person to easily switch between sitting and standing positions. Apart from being great for beginners who have trouble sustaining a standing position for very long, these chairs also fit into experts’ recommended regime of periodically rotating between sitting and standing.
Sit-stand chairs usually consist of a sturdy base at the bottom, and a stool at the top that is height adjustable. At their highest setting the legs are almost completely straight for good blood circulation, with one’s bottom still supported by the seat of the chair when needed.
The low cut back rest and moving column found on most sit stand chairs force the core to be engaged at all times, which is an additional benefit of these types of chairs. They are also relatively inexpensive and take up minimal room compared to a standard office chair.
8. Get an Adjustable Standing Desk
If you’re reading this post your organization may already own standing desks of some kind. Of the various types of standing desks available, pick one that is height adjustable to get the maximum benefits. An adjustable standing desk allows a person to rotate between sitting and standing modes so their posture can easily be changed.
It’s Not Just About Standing
People solely focused on modifying their workspace to facilitate standing are missing the point. While the general consensus is that standing is beneficial for one’s health, the overall conclusion from all of the major studies is that adding variety to work postures throughout the day is key to better health.
This means try to alternate between sitting and standing, mix up the way one stands, plus take short breaks and stretch as frequently as possible.
Accurate Ergonomics is dedicated to helping people live a healthy, productive, injury and pain-free career, and life. AE online training courses for at-desk employees teach your employees why and how to improve their health, prevent fatigue, pain and Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs).
Training courses include a dynamic workstation and postural self-assessment and improvement process - and much more.
We offer a complete set of solutions for every employee who works at a desk, including a process that engages supervisors and managers in proactive solutions.
If your staff already performs ergonomics assessments, or would like to perform assessments internally, we also offer a solution that makes this process easy to internalize.
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The information contained in this post is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of this blog post. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This post is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.