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.”
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 therapy, 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 $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.
Your posture while standing is very important, and you should avoid shifting your weight to just one leg and hyperextending your knees. This is what many people do when standing in a line.
Thomas Merchant, Marshfield Clinic physical therapist, recommends that people gently sway side-to-side while standing. This allows the muscles to contract and relax, avoiding prolonged compression of the leg joints. This will also keep your lower back aligned and reduce stress on the lower back.
Our bodies were designed to move and are happiest when we avoid prolonged sitting or standing. A sit-stand work station allows us to periodically switch positions and move frequently during our work day.