Why do we compare sitting with smoking?

Sedentary behaviour dominates modern life, just as smoking did some decades ago. The health risks posed by prolonged sitting are making it frowned upon, just as smoking is.

Many research studies suggest, that too much sitting increases the risk of developing diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It may even cause premature death. The good news is that being physically active offers some protection against the harms of sitting; research shows standing or replacing sitting time with the activities of daily living (such as housework, gardening, or walking) could reduce the health risks posed by too much sitting.

All people should limit their daily sitting time and break up prolonged periods of sitting, in addition to regular physical activity, for better health and well-being. In other words, reducing sitting time won’t replace the well-established health benefits of regular moderate to vigorous physical activity, such as brisk walking, running, cycling or dancing.

The health risks linked to prolonged periods of sitting are particularly pertinent to people with largely sedentary jobs, such as programmers, designers, writers, photographers, office workers... A growing number of people are getting standing desks in response to the increasing knowledge about the harms of their sedentary lifestyles.

Height adjustable desks are an effective way for individuals to incorporate more standing into their workday. But can you transition to standing at work without causing yourself harm and injury? Of course you can, although there are some precautions that will ensure you not only avoid injury but also stick to standing in the long term.

Tips for healthy standing

Please note that the usual ergonomic set-up considerations apply to your working area. Table height, monitor level, monitor distance from eyes, wrist and arm positioning and posture. All have to be right to prevent physical discomfort and injury. Make sure to adjust your workstation so that it’s safe for you when working in both the seated and standing positions. Here are few things to keep in mind.

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Ease yourself into it

Like embarking on a new exercise routine, you’ll probably notice some discomfort in your body and muscles as you start to work in a standing position. Start standing for short periods of time and gradually build up that time as you get used to it. Be aware that too much standing could increase your chances of musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain, and varicose veins.

Try different routines. Find what works for you.

Some people like to alternate between sitting and standing based on their work tasks (standing to check emails and read documents, for instance, and sitting down to write notes or type documents). Others prefer to change posture based on the time of day (standing first thing in the morning for instance, or after lunch) or for set periods of time, such as every one or two hours. You may find that you don’t like any particular routine and prefer to stand or sit to work depending on how you feel.

Wear comfortable shoes

There is nothing worse than standing or walking around with feet that hurt. Good footwear is a prerequisite for proper posture, mood and confidence. Standing in high heels all day is probably not the best option.

Don’t feel pressured

When you feel tired or fatigued by standing, sit down and rest your legs. If you’ve been standing in the same position for a while, it might help to go for a quick walk or to stretch. Changing postures or going for a walk allows your body to release muscle tension after you’ve been in a static sitting or standing posture.

You don't have to stand alone

Get your colleagues involved and normalise standing in your workplace. Together, you can build a work environment that supports its staff members to stand up at work.