Friday, February 10, 2012

Taking a stand at the office

Montreal Gazette Jill Barker, 9 February 2012

Jimmy Rogers got rid of his office furniture while recuperating from a herniated disc, which made sitting painful. First he put his laptop on top of a filing cabinet and stood up to work. Then he went for "something more ergonomic,”

Now he spends a full day working standing up. Part of a growing trend of office workers who work at a at a standing desk

There is growing amount of evidence suggesting that too much time spent in a chair isn’t good for your health.

The American Cancer Society recently released a report stating that women who spent more than six hours a day sitting had a 37-per-cent higher risk of mortality, compared to those who sat fewer than three hours a day, within the study’s 13-year time period. As for men, six hours a day spent in a chair increased the likelihood of death by 18 per cent over men who spent less than half that time seated.

Researchers believe excessive sitting causes the body to go into a type of “sleep mode,” which shuts down muscle activity and has a negative effect on the body’s metabolic functions.

Standing, on the other hand, encourages movement, which boosts muscle activity, calorie burn and, according to some health experts, alertness. Yet despite its seemingly obvious benefits, there’s little research proving that more time standing will negate the health risks associated with too much sitting.

McGill University kinesiology professor Julie Côté, a specialist in ergonomics and biomechanics, is currently gathering data on the physiological responses of incorporating more standing postures in the workplace.
Her study measures blood flow to the legs and muscle activity in the low back during occupational standing and sitting.

Finding just the right desk and adjusting it to just the right height is the easy part of the switch from sitting to standing. Finding the endurance to stand for extended periods of time is the real challenge.

“Start gradually,” Côté said. “And never stand longer than 90 minutes without changing your position. The worst thing you can do is stay static.”

Most people don’t spend the whole day on their feet, rather they alternate between sitting and standing, which is where the adjustable desk helps.

Rogers suggests getting around the expense of an adjustable desk by using a chair the height of a bar stool. This inexpensive option allows you to install a stationary platform to hold your computer, monitor and phone, while still being able to move easily from sitting to standing.

As for suggestions on how to ease the discomfort associated with long periods spent standing, Rogers recommends placing a cushioned mat under your feet, wearing footwear with good support and alternating elevating one foot on a riser.

Côté says finding out what works best for you is all part of the learning curve associated with moving from sitting to standing. And since there is no clear research suggesting that one strategy works better than another, it’s okay to experiment.


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