Humans were not made to sit all day. And yet that’s precisely what many of us do, work day after work day.
Some give it a name, “sitting disease,” while others even more forcefully say “sitting is the new smoking.”
James Levine, a Mayo Clinic researcher who has thoroughly studied the issue, puts it in context: “The way we live now is to sit all day, occasionally punctuated by a walk from the parking lot to the office, and back again to the car, he said. “The default has become to sit. We need the default to be standing.”
The cumulative impact of sitting all day for years has been linked to a range of major health problems, from obesity to diabetes, cancer and heart attacks.
Luckily, we have new ways to incorporate more time on our feet into the work week. Enter, sit-stand workstations.
Hours on the phone – sit-stand workstations to the rescue
Picture a group of cubicles occupied by busy nurses on telephone calls. They’re working in Marshfield Clinic’s anticoagulation service, helping patients with difficult-to-manage blood thinners such as warfarin.
These nurses are on the phone with patients for hours at a time, but sit-stand workstations recently installed are helping them take the pressure away from their backsides.
“The sit-stand units have been available for some time but have only recently become popular,” said Melissa Mikelson, department manager. Her staff of registered nurses and health service coordinators talk to about 11,000 patients per year, during 18,000 calls per month.
Four hours without moving
“My staff is really dedicated to the people they serve and time can get away from them,” she said. “They often go for four hours or more without moving.”
When two of her staff members developed back problems, Mikelson knew it was time to explore possibilities to address such issues. Ultimately, she brought in occupational therapist Jon Marion, who recommended sit-stand workstations for the nurses. They’ve been well received.
“It helps to be able to stand up and get the blood flowing,” said Lisa Elmhorst, one of the nurses. “I feel that my posture is a lot better because you tend to slouch when you’re sitting.” She splits her time about evenly between standing and sitting.
Happier people — anecdotally
“From a management perspective, my people seem happier,” Mikelson said. They’re less tired, and because of that they’re more motivated to get away briefly and take walks, which help them even more.”
Sit-stand workstations cost anywhere from about $360-500 each. That’s less expensive than having just one employee develop chronic back pain or other problems generated by a lifetime of sitting.
Whether or not you use a sit-stand workstation, it’s also a good idea to adjust office chairs for proper ergonomic comfort.