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Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Sitting vs Standing While Working

“Sedentary time — even among physically active people — may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and more.” American Heart Association

Too much sitting has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and more. Occupations that require computer work, office work, telecommunication, driving, etc. will generally require employees to sit at a desk or in a vehicle, so what is one to do? Is the solution to purchase a standing desk?

Our ergonomics experts will examine this dilemma and provide some suggestions to avoid injury in the work place.

Sitting at Work vs Standing at Work

Sitting allows one to conserve energy and stabilize the body, therefore performing tasks like computer work, driving, or even micro-surgery generally involve sitting. However, sitting for over an hour at a time can release biochemical changes in the body that lead to heart disease.

Standing while working may seem like the logical solution to too much sitting. Standing can help burn more calories than sitting due to the energy required to stand, however prolonged standing has perils of its own. Standing for long periods of time may cause aching joints and sore feet in the short term and in the long term, too much standing could cause painful back problems or permanent muscle damage.

What about Sit-Stand Workstations?

Often both the employer and employee think that the ergonomic risks are abated once a sit-stand station is installed, when in fact, the sit-stand workstations may have introduced new ergonomic risk factors. A sit-stand workstation may lead to awkward postures of the spine and upper extremities with incorrect equipment heights in relation to the individual’s anthropometric needs, incorrect equipment positioning, and incorrect equipment. Additionally, sit-stand workstations do not resolve the issues of 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 Solution is Movement

If both sitting too long and standing too long is bad for you, then what is the solution? The answer is movement. Moving frequently to avoid prolonged inactivity is key.

Don’t be afraid to sit while doing computer work, just be sure to incorporate movement in to your day beyond your 15/30/15 breaks. This means, every 20-30 minutes stand and take a posture break for a few minutes and move around for a couple of minutes more. When you walk around, your blood circulates through your muscles and benefits your body.

You don’t need to do exercises at your desk (though here is a list of some you can do if you wish), but get into the habit of walking to the printer, grabbing a beverage, standing during meetings, using the stairs, walking the floor, and even parking further than necessary in the parking lot.

In Conclusion

Just use common sense to break up prolonged inactivity in the workplace. Realize that simply standing in one spot for hours isn’t the solution to too much sitting, but that movement is key. And as always, remain proactive about your health in the work place.

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