Saying that “sitting is the new smoking” may be a little extreme, but sitting all day does have its health risks. Too much sitting can be bad for both our physical and mental health. After all, insufficient physical activity is 1 of the 10 leading risk factors for death worldwide. This isn’t brand new information either. In 2009, the American College of Sports Medicine published a study revealing that regardless of fitness level, those who sat most had a 50% increased risk of early death. So, what can you do if you need to spend hours in front of the computer all day?
Try a standing desk.
Here are my thoughts and observations after trying a standing desk for myself:
Adjusting takes patience
When you first try a standing desk, your body may protest. The first time I tried it I found myself wanting to sit back down rather quickly. It feels odd to stand and type at the computer. We are creatures of habit. Anytime you try something new, it can be uncomfortable at first. Your body needs time to retrain itself and get used to the idea of standing to work instead of sitting to work.
You’ll discover new muscles
After using a standing desk for the first long day, I discovered muscles that I didn’t know I had. Until I started to get used to it, I felt some tension and pain in odd places. You begin to become more away your body in places like the tops of your feet and the sides of your lower back. You may start to feel all kinds of little muscles activated to support you.
Posture is important
When we’re sitting, we often hunch over our computers. After all who has time to focus on posture when there is so much work to be done? But when I began to stand and work, I noticed my poor posture was exaggerated and that I needed to make a change by tightening my stomach muscles, shifting my pelvis and pulling my shoulders back. It is a bit distracting at first, but if you persist, you will be standing tall and regal in no time.
You move naturally
When sitting to work, I would get so sucked into the computer screen that I wouldn’t move or rest my eyes. When standing, it feels more natural to move around a bit and even walk around the office more. You find yourself flexing your legs which can improve your circulation. And you are at a higher viewpoint so remembering to look around the room to give your eyes a break from the screen is easier.
You become more relaxed
This has a lot to do with more movement and better posture. Using a standing desk setup creates a better position for your body so your muscles tend to be less tense. I noticed that my constantly sore shoulders began to relax and my back felt more at ease. I had more flexibility during my end of day stretching session instead of feeling tight and stuck. An adjustable height desk will allow you to relax those shoulders down and look straight ahead without the “T-Rex arms.”
Your brain gets a boost
Being on your feet and moving around a bit, even if it is just shifting side to side, keeps your blood flowing better improves your circulation. Once I adjusted to standing, I could focus in on my work and I noticed a creativity and concentration boost. That afternoon sluggishness subsided allowing me to get more done. You may also find that you stay warmer throughout the day.
Supportive shoes are a go
If you’re going to stand in the office all day, it’s a good idea to wear supportive shoes while at your desk. High heels are a no-no. You could also get a gel mat to stand on or go barefoot if you wanted. Wearing uncomfortable shoes while standing for long periods is not only damaging to your feet, back and knees, but it can also be extremely distracting.
You can take it slow
If you’re not ready to stand for eight hours straight, then you can try an adjustable sit/stand desk version. When I was first starting out, I would stand for a bit and sit for a bit. Some may do better by diving right into standing for the full day, others may benefit from a slower start. Give it a go and see how you feel. Be patient with your body. Remember, you can choose forego those office chairs part time if that works better for you.
In conclusion, standing at your desk is certainly more physically demanding than sitting, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Once you get used to it, you find that your body is actually more relaxed, especially in that tight neck and shoulder area. It feels good to be able to stretch and shift around. Your posture tends to naturally improve and you may even feel motivated to be more active in your personal time too.
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