Whether you commute to the office or work from home, a standing desk can help alleviate some of the stress that’s often caused by sitting for hours on end. Those with back pain frequently report that switching to a standing desk reduces their symptoms, an experience backed by a 2014 study at Stanford that found users of standing desks were 78 percent more likely to report a pain-free work day. Others believe that standing at a desk encourages creativity and a more active approach to the day. Before you try the upright protocol yourself, learn how it's done, including the proper posture and office accessories to support your new position.
1. Everything in Moderation
Many new converts assume that the more they stand at their desk, the better. However, doctors point out that standing all day can simply swap one set of aches and pains for another. According to orthopedic specialist Jason Freedman at Cambridge Health Alliance, "If your body is using the same muscles, the same way all the time, you're going to experience strain." Dr. Josephine Chau, a research fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia, cites varicose veins and lower back pain as two risks of excessive standing.
Experts recommend that you alternate between standing and sitting at your desk for maximum comfort. Break up your day, switching positions every 20 to 30 minutes. Aim to stand for a total of two hours daily at first, then work your way up to four hours. If your job involves different types of work, try designating tasks as one or the other. For example, you might stand at your desk while you talk on the phone, surf the web, or return emails, but sit when you focus on projects. Those who work from home can further divide their time, breaking to wash dishes or check the mail to get the blood flowing.
2. The Right Desk for the Job
A sit-stand desk is ideal for toggling between positions, allowing users to alternate between sitting and standing. Look for desks that can store at least two height settings so you can easily switch back and forth. Or test the waters with a standing desk converter that elevates the work surface of your existing desk. Add a tall stool to give yourself the option of sitting. If you want to fit in extra work at home but don't have space for an office, a small standing desk works extremely well in tight layouts, including kitchens and hallways. Whichever design you choose, opt for a standing desk with adjustable height to support proper posture. People who are very tall should check that their new standing desk accommodates their height.
3. Good Posture Still Counts
Although standing is often effective in quickly relieving stress from your shoulders and back, posture is still very much important. If you stand while bent over your kitchen counter, you may quickly find it as uncomfortable as sitting. The ideal position is standing up straight with your head, neck and spine aligned. Pull your elbows close to your torso and relax your shoulders. For computer work, your eye level should line up with the top of the monitor to encourage a straight head and neck. When you type, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle with your wrists held out straight.
A few key office accessories can help you maintain this position. Use a display stand and keyboard tray that are height-adjustable. The right balance between the height of your work surface, keyboard and monitor prevents you from craning your neck to see your screen or lifting your elbows to type. If you work on a laptop, you may need to connect an external keyboard to find the right balance, or, better yet, a second display.
4. Lessen Your Load
Even the best standing desk can make feet feel achy and swollen after many hours. Wear comfortable shoes (read: no heels) or take them off while you work. A good anti-fatigue mat can reduce much of the stress on your feet. These mats come in a range of materials and softness levels, from firm and supportive to pleasantly squishy. Unless you plan to stand exclusively, look for an anti-fatigue mat that's thin enough for your office chair to roll over.
Don't get discouraged if the first day on your feet results in some growing pains. Most individuals experience discomfort at first, but they are gradually able to stand for longer periods. In addition to improved posture and reduced pain, many report an extra boost in energy once they adjust to their standing desk. Instead of soldiering through, listen to your body and give your feet a rest when they feel stiff or sore.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for information purposes only. The information does not constitute a medical consultation and cannot replace medical advice. Any information should never be used as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other health care provider. It is important that you use common sense. There are many possible causes for physical discomfort. If you are experiencing persistent symptoms or symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with your job or personal activities, consider seeking medical assistance.
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