The sit stand revolution – are you doing it right?
So your new office is decked out with all the bells and whistles to promote workplace health, but do you know how to properly use your sit stand desk?
The sit stand desk revolution is sweeping through our urban workspaces. Is this just a new fad or is the sit stand desk not only changing the ergonomics of our workspace, but making a difference to our health at the same time?
I think it is important to note that with anything that you do throughout the day there are opportunities for repetitive strain type (RSI) injuries. If you sit at a desk or have manual labour job, or you stand all day long, each activity has its own set of pros and cons, and each has its own repetitive strain patterns that play out in the body.
The good thing about the sit stand desk being adjustable is that it means you have a choice. An important thing to remember is if you sit too long you tend to slump, breathe shallowly and squash all the abdominal organs causing tightness in the shoulders and hips – not to mention slowing down your metabolism. On the other end of the scale, if you stand all day long you can be prone to varicose veins, compression in the lower spine, rotations in the pelvis as you shift your weight from side to side (rotations in the pelvis can also occur in the chair as well).
The sit stand desk is valuable to your postural health when you use it correctly. As with anything, there is never a quick fix, you still need to be dedicated to improving your postural health and well-being in general with a only a small amount of effort.
The best way to make the most out of your sit stand desk is to make sure that you adjust the desk from sit to stand at regular intervals, staying in one position for no longer than 60 minutes. Ideally, 30-minute intervals are the optimal approach, although this may not always be practical. Allowing yourself to change position regularly means your body does not have time to create an underlying strain pattern. Within 30 minutes, the body is just starting to get used to a position before it has to adapt to a new position.
Each time you adjust your desk, take two minutes to do a couple of stretches, this will ensure that any strain patterns that were developing will dissipate when being stretched out, allowing all muscles that have been shortened to lengthen. There will be an increase in blood flow and removal of waste from the area as well. After stretching, you not only give your muscles a break, but your mind as well, even if it’s only for two minutes. If you change your sit stand desk seven times a day, that is 14 minutes of stretching and mindful breathing – it all adds up.
I recommend you hold a stretch for at least 20 seconds and take slow deep breaths while making sure that you breathe all your air out. Mindful breathing has been proven to have a calming effect on the nervous system, which is very beneficial in stressful environments and situations.
Good ergonomic tips to prevent repetitive strain injuries:
- Make sure the desk height is correct, both sitting and standing, and ensure that your elbows rest at 90-degree angles comfortably. It is important to remember that, as long as the computer screen is at eye level, if you need to have the desk height a little bit lower to have the computer screen level with your eyes, it is fine, as long as your arms can rest comfortably and you are relaxed through your shoulders.
- Having your screen straight on and not off to the side of the desk where you would be required to be in a slight rotation is also important to consider when setting up your desk.
- If you are always answering the phone to one side, ensure that you change the phone to the other side regularly.
- Changing your mouse to each hand regularly will also help.
Remember, taking the time to set up your desk at the right height when you transition from sit to stand, and stretching for a couple of minutes after you adjust your desk, will make a big difference to your posture and will be a determining factor in preventing RSI. Making your sit stand desk work for you will have a great benefit to your posture and general well-being. Staying hydrated throughout the day and ensuring you are getting good nutrition while exercising regularly will also enhance your posture and general well-being and will have a positive add-on effect to all aspects of your life in general.
The author, Dr Allison Van Ommen, is an osteopath based in South Melbourne at Without Limits Health and Osteopathy. Alli is a former elite water polo athlete, having played in the European Professional Water Polo league. She is also a previous member of the Victorian Tigers National League Women’s Water Polo Team and Victorian Institute of Sport squad.