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Are standing desks better for you?


Standing at your desk has been all the craze in the last few years. Stand up workstations and desks used to cost hundreds, even over a thousand dollars just 5 years ago. You can now purchase conversion kits that transform any sit-down desk into an adjustable stand-up workstation. Dedicated stand up desks are also available from many retailers, many of which are programmable to suit your elevation needs. But are these desks worthwhile investments for YOU?

Benefits of stand-up desks

Most working professionals will spend about half their waking hours on a chair. Here’s the breakdown…

  • 1 hr to and from work

  • 8 hr workday

  • 1.5 hr time for 3 meals a day

  • 2-3 hr additional sitting for adolescents, teens, and students!

You can see why our culture, for better or worse, has a high incidence of sedentary behaviour. Standing breaks the monotony of sitting and allows our bodies to experience the following:

  • Increased Weight Bearing forces

  • Stretches hip flexor muscles that have shortened from chronic sitting

  • Forces the body to balance for long periods

  • Allows spinal muscles to engage in an upright position

  • Engages calf, thigh, and hip muscles

  • Avoids compression of the hamstrings and circulation to the lower extremities

Too much time in any position isn’t healthy

Sounds like a lot of positive benefits. But there are also certain liabilities with “too much” standing. Slouching can take place whether you sit or stand! Many hours of either sitting or standing in a poorly postured individual will create mal-adaptations of spinal muscles and reduce efficiency in movements. Hip-flexor and calf muscle shortening is common, and increases the likelihood for hip and leg muscle strains and tendon tears over time. Ergonomically arranged workstations are designed to make it comfortable for you to sit for many hours at a time. Anti-gravity chairs that project your computer screen towards the ceiling also prolongs sedentary behaviour, but may benefit some people.

If you spend a lot of time on your feet for work or during the day, there’s no harm in allowing your body to rest in a seated position. It gives your feet and arches a chance to decompress and allows fatigued spinal muscles to “catch their breath”.

Transition to standing desks

If your spinal joints and hip joints are experiencing pain from prolonged sitting, having occasional instances of standing at your workstation can help relieve muscle strain. Avoid converting your desk into a stand-up situation too quickly, as your body needs time to adapt to a new work environment. Certain conditions like spinal osteoarthritis, hip and knee arthritis/pain can be worsened when there is prolonged standing pressure, so use the stand-up environment sparingly in these situations.

An alternative

One of the ways I alternate between standing and sitting is that I have a high desk that uses a stool. I can approach my workstation and remain standing, or use the stool to take pressure off my feet and hips. The stool is padded for comfort, but there is no back support! My muscles are the back support, and after 30-45 minutes sitting on the stool, my body gets tired (which is normal), and I go back to standing. The stool prompts my change in position 1-2x per hour, allowing me to experience the benefits of both standing and sitting.

Just remember that whenever you ask if something..anything... is “better”, you are being asked to make a comparison which is highly contextual. A standing desk has advantages and disadvantages. Poor body alignment can take place on a sitting or standing desk. If you spend at least 8-10 daily hours on a chair, you should get up and exercise because sitting is a sport! Just ask NASCAR drivers! The takeaway...strengthen your postural infrastructure and you’ll succeed in any position!

Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults,

athletes, and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition based health care. For comments or questions, email him at southpaschiro@gmail.com


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