Sitting for extended periods is not good for us
The ancient phrase “all things in moderation” is good advice. There are numerous research studies like the ones from the Diabetes Research Centre2, Mayo Clinic3 and Cornell University4 that repeatedly show that sitting, uninterrupted, for extended periods is associated with increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers (breast and colon).
Standing for extended periods is not good for us either
Standing for extended periods is as bad as sitting for extended periods."Standing puts greater strain on the circulatory system and on the legs, feet and back," says Alan Hedge, Ph.D., the director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Laboratory at Cornell University.
The following tips are provided by the Ergonomics Program in CSU’s (Colorado State University) Office of Risk Management and Insurance.
- Electric Height-adjustable workstations (EHAWS) are ideal in today’s office environment, where computer work is prevalent. Not only will a properly adjustable workstation/table properly “fit” a majority of the population (about 90 percent or more), when adjusted correctly, an adjustable workstation/table will allow for alternating between sitting and standing, which has great benefits.
- Unfortunately, too much focus has been placed on standing more and sitting less, when the mixture of the two postures is most important. Although sitting for too long can have detrimental effects on the body, standing for too long has its own set of detriments such as pooling of blood in the feet, increased back pain, varicose veins, increased risk of atherosclerosis, etc. At the recent National Ergonomics Conference and Exposition, Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of life sciences at NASA, simply said to stand up often. “Standing up often, at least 30 times a day, is a powerful antidote to sitting,” she said.
- Ideally, when using a sit/stand height adjustable workstation, users should adjust and vary postures every 30-60 minutes or so and avoid long durations of either sitting or remember, the best posture is the next posture.
- Even if you have an adjustable workstation, it does not mean you are free from all ergonomic risk. The correct height of the table, height and position of the keyboard and mouse, monitor(s), phone, etc., are crucial. Often a height-adjustable table is adjusted too high when sitting, forcing elevated shoulders and other awkward postures, which increases the risk for discomfort, fatigue and injury.1
I encourage you to read the rest of this report.
What happens when our existing desk is too high for us?
- Even with a sit-stand option, we sit at our desk more than 70% of the time. Therefore, it is critical to get our sitting height right.
- Doctors, researchers and ergonomists tell us that proper posture is so important when using our computers. When keying, we need to keep our shoulders relaxed and our arms comfortably at our sides. Our elbows should be bent at a 90° to 120° angle and our wrists should be at a neutral position.
- If our desk is too high, this posture isn’t attainable, so our natural tendency is to lift our arms by scrunching up our shoulders. This brings into play the constant tension on our neck and shoulder muscles which, in turn cause headaches, sore neck and fatigue.
- Raising our chair to compensate for the desk height is both unhealthy and counter-productive. The first thing to do when adjusting our workstation is to ensure that our chair is supporting us properly. One key factor is to make sure that the seat height is adjusted so that, with our feet flat on the floor, our thighs are evenly supported and not pressing on the front edge of the seat cushion which then restricts the circulation of blood through the major veins and arteries in the back of our legs.
- The use of a footrest is one way to help with the “I can’t get my feet on the floor because I need to raise my chair because my desk is too high” syndrome. However, anyone who has used a footrest quickly realizes that one needs to keep one’s feet close together when using it, a footrest restricts movement and it gets in the way a lot!
Is Your Desk Too High For You?
- Try entering your height in this Ergonomic Assessment Tool.
- Now measure the height of your desk from the floor to the top of your desk and include the thickness of your keyboard.
- Compare the two.
So why not consider an EHAWS?
When considering an electricl height adjustable table or workstation (EHAWS), ensure the workstation will allow for proper hand working height for both sitting and standing. Work should be at or slightly below elbow height with your shoulders relaxed, your upper arms naturally by your side and elbows in 90- to 110-degree angles. When sitting and working on the computer, sit back completely in the chair, and adjust the keyboard to approximately 1-2” above your lap. Whether sitting or standing, your elbows should remain close to your body while working. 1