An increase in sedentary jobs
“Work sites, schools, homes, and public spaces have been and continue to be re-engineered in ways that minimize human movement and muscular activity” (Owen et al, 2010)
In comparison to previous generations we are spending increasingly more time in environments that limit activity and require prolonged sitting - at home, work, transportation and in our communities.
Sedentary behaviour (from the Latin sedere—“to sit”) is the term now used to characterise those behaviours for which energy expenditure is low which include: prolonged sitting time in transit, at work, at home and in leisure time. (British Journal of Sports Medicine)
Another outcome of a sedentary lifestyle is premature death. In 2013, the World Health Organization estimates that 3.2 million people worldwide die prematurely each year due to a sedentary lifestyle.
The average workday is eight hours, in a sedentary job we spend as much if not more time each day sitting as we do sleeping. In an effort to reduce the amount of time spent sitting each day, more professionals have introduced standing desks into the workplace.
Many people often ask us, are standing desks better for your health and should I get one?
What are sit/stand desks?
Sit/Stand desks are adjustable desks that can easily be converted from sitting height to standing height to allow an employee to convert their workstation throughout the day. Sit/stand desks can also be easily converted to allow employees of different heights to use the same desk and adjust it to their individual needs. Over the last few years, there has been an increase of sit/stand desks in the workplace and in schools.
Which is better: Sitting or Standing?
Increased awareness about sit/stand desks in the workplace, often causes people to question, which is better? Standing or sitting. Should an office worker sit all day at a regular desk or stand all day using a sit/stand desk? Some disadvantages of each posture from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety are listed below:
Negative Effects of Prolonged Sitting
Reduced muscle activity that can lead to muscular imbalances
Inactive glutes and contracted hip flexors
Fatigue of back and neck muscles
Compression of spinal discs
Prolonged sitting equals reduced blood flow
Forward position of the head
Negative Effects of Prolonged Standing
Swelling of the legs
General muscular fatigue
Low back pain
Stiffness in the neck and shoulders
“Continuous standing or sitting while working is a common source of discomfort and fatigue. Frequent changes of body positions, a well-designed workstation, taking rest breaks, and stretching all help to avoid health problems”
(Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety)
Can you see a pattern? Neither is better. The bottom line is that remaining in any static position for long periods of time has detrimental effects on the body. Changing positions frequently throughout the day, allows for an increase in blood flow and the use of different muscle groups. Being aware of proper posture while sitting or standing for prolonged periods and consciously changing positions throughout the day can help reduce the muscle discomfort from holding a static position. Studies show that active breaks between prolonged sitting periods are associated with beneficial metabolic profiles in adults decreased waist circumference, body mass index (BMI), triglyceride levels, and two-hour plasma glucose levels (Healy et al, 2008). These factors all contribute to improved overall health.
Sit/stand desks are advantageous because they are adjustable, to allow a worker to alternate standing and sitting throughout the workday. A sit/stand desk is a great tool to help office workers spend less time holding a static position and more time moving.
How to get moving at the office?
The use of a sit stand desk can improve the ability to change positions throughout the day. The goal is not to stand all day, but move from sitting to standing frequently throughout the day. Incorporating standing desks at different areas throughout the office space, such as the printer, scanner, reception etc. can allow the opportunity for employee’s to spend more time changing positions and standing more during the workday. Below are some tips for how to get moving at the office if you do not have a sit/stand desk.
Set a timer and take a walking or stretch break every 20 minutes
Change positions frequently throughout the day
Walk around while on the phone
Take walking meetings with coworkers
Move to different locations for different tasks
Always take the stairs
Correct Desk Posture
Even when using a standing or sitting desk it is important to maintain proper posture to maintain the natural curve of your spine. Check out the images below for tips on how to maintain proper posture while sitting or standing.
If you want to learn more about office ergonomics and how to best set up your workspace, to prevent overuse injuries or adjust your workspace to return to work after an injury. Click the button to the right to learn about our ergonomics services.
World Health Organization. Physical inactivity: a global public health problem. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2008.
Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Salmon J, Cerin E, Shaw JE, Zimmet PZ, Owen N. Breaks in sedentary time beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:661–6. doi: 10.2337/dc07-2046.
Owen, N., Sparling, P. B., Healy, G. N., Dunstan, D. W., & Matthews, C. E. (2010). Sedentary Behavior: Emerging Evidence for a New Health Risk. Mayo Clinic Proceedings,85(12), 1138-1141. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0444