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By Janet DeLapp, MS, CDMS, CPDM, CPE

You may have heard that the effects of sitting all day is the equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day. It is not clear where the scientific evidence that supports that statement is found but we do know that there is no evidence that sitting causes lung cancer. Thank goodness.

However, there is evidence that prolonged sitting has a negative effect on cardio-vascular health but how bad of an effect is not known yet. Also, what is not known is whether standing at work reduces the chance of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as, tendonitis, low back issues or carpal tunnel; the longitudinal studies have just not been produced yet.

Keep in mind, Ergonomics is the science that helps people stay free from developing MSDs while also improving overall comfort and productivity. This is done by insuring the ergonomic risks, leading to the development of these disorders, are eliminated.

In the office environment, the most common ergonomic risk factors found include:

  • Awkward postures of the spine and upper extremities due to:
    • Incorrect equipment heights in relation to the individual’s anthropometric needs (NOTE: anthropometrics is the science of body measurements and is used in implementing ergonomics practices)
    • Incorrect equipment positioning
    • Incorrect equipment
  • Repetitive work with inadequate rest breaks
    • Studies show that the typical break schedule of 15,30,15 minutes is not sufficient to recover from repetitive office work.

The fact is, installing a sit-stand station does nothing to abate these 2 biggest ergonomics concerns listed above. That is not the worst of it. The most dangerous thing is that once a sit-stand station is installed, often both the employer and employee think that the ergonomic risks are abated, when in fact, they are not. In fact, new ergonomic risk factors may have been introduced with the new workstation.

We all know, standing some of the time to work is great, it feels good to have that freedom of movement, right? Well, the fact is, the standing desk is not effective in getting you to move enough. Standing, by itself, is not much better than sitting; all the health benefits reside in moving. The point is, you have to get the blood that has pooled in places, pumped up through the heart again. Blood pools when you sit or stand too long and only moving will pump it back up.

The good news is that more dynamic workstations and work environments, where movement is incorporated more naturally, are the future and with them, will come improved health. Perhaps these new work environments will also reduce MSDs in the workplace. However, to do so, the design engineers need to incorporate ergonomics principles into their designs.

For now, here is the take away to make sure you are getting the most benefit from that new sit-stand station:

  • First, ask a professional Ergonomics Consultant to evaluate the ergonomic risk factors that are present in your work area. There is a 99% chance there are some and you will be happy to get rid of them.
  • Second, develop a healthy sit-stand-move schedule. So far, evidence supports:
  • Sitting ½ the day and standing ½ the day and changing posture every 30 minutes or
  • Sitting 20 minutes, standing 8 minutes and moving 2 minutes every half hour, in addition to your regular breaks.
  • Ideas on how to move more include:
    • Take 10 steps in your work area
    • Do ten calf raises or squats
    • Stretch
    • Go talk to a co-worker face to face
    • Do walking meetings

In the long run, if professionals bring the science of ergonomics and the science of health together, the best solutions for optimum health will result but they both have to work together.

For more expert ergonomics advice, Contact and we’ll be happy to help.


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