Stand up for your job!

Stand up for your job!

This is not a call to retain your employment but a chance to improve your health. Most office workers spend nearly six hours a day sitting and about seven hours a day in bed according to the British Psychological Society. That does not include the hours we log in front of televisions and computers at home. As I write this article, I am standing at an elevated work surface with a much happier musculo-skeletal arrangement. So what are the benefits of standing while working?

With aging bones and muscles, my son recently noted, “Dad, you’re starting to walk like an old man.” How’s that for un-nuanced observation from a pesky teen? I also was having sciatic pains down the back of one leg from trying to kill a golf ball. Sitting hurt.

So with pain in one leg and being called an “old man”, corrective action seemed worth testing. One remedy was a stand-up desk to minimize the hobbled steps and relive the pain of sitting.

In less than three weeks, I have become accustomed to standing while working. My feet have made the transition by standing on a cushy pad. I also have a foot rest that raises one leg or the other for variety and movement. Most remarkable; no more sciatic pain and no more hobbled walking.

Just as with an exercise program, it is not uncommon to feel tired after starting a workout routine. The first week I went home bone tired but now have ample stamina to feel great at the end of the day. I’m also burning three times the number of calories when standing than when sitting according to data from the Mayo Clinic. Hopefully, I’ll trim a few pounds.

As with anything, making a change should be gradual so having a stool to rest on or buying an adjustable desk that can be raised and lowered will help your body become accustomed to the new arrangement.

Ergonomics

When making the move to a standing desk, it is very important that your relationship to the work surface changes as well. Your key board should allow your arms to hang at a right angle for typing and should minimize having your wrists in a forced position. Computer monitors also should be elevated to allow your head to tilt at a natural and comfortable position; ditto for your mouse. Our loss control consultant helped engineer my work station to avoid strains and discomfort that can create longer term issues, a service we provide for our customers, as well.

An article on Smithsonian.com cites several benefits of remaining on your feet during the day – all of which are related to movement and blood circulation.

Good for your heart

Data from the Mayo Clinic suggest that extended sitting at home or at work is correlated with a higher incidence of heart disease and related cardio vascular issues. Besides changing your diet, exercise is one of the greatest factors in cardio vascular health. Standing at work promotes circulation and movement.

Lower glucose

Rather than waiting to find out that your blood glucose levels are hinting at the onset of Type 2 diabetes, standing while working could improve your metabolic numbers. Other data cited suggested that being sedentary increased the levels of fasting blood glucose, a key measure of the body’s ability to respond to one’s natural insulin production. The American Diabetes Association says that more than 1.5 million new cases of diabetes are being diagnosed annually. The relevance is that diabetes can be a contributing factor to kidney failure, amputations, blindness, heart disease and strokes. Simply standing up while working can change those numbers.

Avoiding cancer

Though extended sitting is correlated with cancer, there are no definitive results. That said, the rate of breast, colon and other cancers were more prevalent among those who sat for prolonged periods of time. Researchers have found that certain biomarkers associated with cancer are found at higher levels among those who sit for long periods. In researching this article, I found a physician who suggested that sitting is the new smoking – a lifestyle choice with negative ramifications.

Since making the switch to my stand up desk, a number of co-workers have stopped by to ask questions or investigate how they, too, can make the switch. Depending on your office set-up, the cost can be very reasonable for re-tooling your space. A search on the internet for “stand up desks” produced 3.9 million results and featured adaptive work surfaces for as little as a few hundred dollars. Of course, being a Yankee, you can jury-rig the desired changes using books, boxes and reams of paper to see if you like the stand up lifestyle.

Give it a try and see what happens. I suspect that over time you’ll see a great many more people opting to stand up for their job and realize the benefits of better health.

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