To Sit or Stand at Work

Scott Willis (Physiotherapist – Somerset)

You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking! This statement brings many questions…

  • What health problems are associated with too much sitting?
  • How long should we sit for?
  • What other alternatives to sitting are available?
  • Should we stand all day?
  • How can I put this information into practice at work?

What Are the Health Problems With Too Much Sitting?

  • You are at more risk of death (15% higher risk if sitting 8-11 hours per day and 40% higher risk if sitting more than 11 hours per day).
  • You are at more risk of Diabetes.
  • You are more risk of Cardio-vascular disease.
  • You are at more risk of Obesity.
  • You are at more risk of some cancers (such as colon, lung, and breast).
  • You are at more risk of developing mental health related issues like depression.

How Long Should We Sit For?

  • More than 7 hours of self-reported sitting or sedentary behaviour is likely to be detrimental to your health and wellbeing.
  • Prolonged sitting bouts of more than 30 mins can be detrimental to your health.

What Alternatives to Sitting are Available?

  • Use a standing desk that you can alternate between sitting, standing, walking.
  • Breaking up your day with adopting different postures like sitting, standing, walking, moving.
  • Have a standing meeting where everyone stands for the meeting.
  • Have a walking meeting where people hold their meeting walking the corridors.
  • Stand up every time you have a phone call.
  • Walk to the photocopier or place the photocopier in a central place that workers have to walk to.
  • Walk to a colleague and discuss the issue rather than sending an email.
  • Use the stairs instead of the lifts.
  • Take standing coffee breaks instead of sitting.
  • Use a glass for water and not a larger bottle to make you walk to the water cooler.
  • Have lunch away from your desk.
  • Use an active way on commuting to and from work (bike, walk, bus).
  • Go for a lunch time walk outside.
  • Use the company Gym before or after work or at lunch time.

Pictures from freepik.com

Should We Stand All Day?

  • No, you need to alternate between different postures and not just stand all day.
  • It has been demonstrated that standing all day can increase aching into the legs, back, neck and feet.
  • Generally ½ of workers experience symptoms listed above within 30 minutes of standing (low grade pain).
  • BUT 84% experience symptoms after 2 hours!
  • So stand for periods less than 30 minutes at a time and alternate your positions.
  • Expect symptoms to get worse if you stand for periods of 2 hours.

Sitting Ergonomics

  • Top of computer/laptop screen at eye level.
  • Distance to the screen an arm’s length.
  • Chair supporting the spine.
  • Forearms at horizontal with shoulders relaxed.
  • 2 finger width between the front of the chair and leg.
  • Document holder centrally placed.
  • Back rest reclined at 20-30° from vertical.
  • Knees approximately at 90° and supported.

Standing Egonomics

  • Top of screen at eye level.
  • Distance to the screen an arm’s length.
  • Forearms at horizontal with shoulders relaxed.
  • Document holder centrally placed.

Summary

  • Alternate between sitting, standing and walking every 30 minutes
  • Don’t sit or stand all day
  • Try to use other means rather than sitting when having meetings, wanting to communicate with your peers, or wanting a coffee break.
  • Try to walk before, after or during lunch time to reduce your sitting or standing time.
  • Get management and other peers involved at work, drive the change!

Coastal Physiotherapy can assist all patients and businesses by providing Ergonomic assessments within the workplace. Ring our Burnie office for further information!

Scott Willis

Physiotherapist

References:

  1. Safe Work Australia: Sedentary work – evidence on an emergent work health and safety issue.
  2. https://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/physical_hazards/sedentary_work
  3. BeUpStanding webpage www.beupstanding.com.au
  4. APA article on workplace ergonomics 2013