To sit or not to sit!

It seems the world has come to the realisation that we have evolved over the centuries to stand upright – not to sit! We’re in an age of rapid technological advances and the population has become increasingly sedentary. Many workers have now implemented the use of standing desks or sit-stand desks within the workplace in attempt to avoid the negative effects of sitting for prolonged periods. When the work is piling up on the desk and you’re inundated with deadlines it is hard to break out of the zone and stand up give the body a break.

Evolution of sitting

Patients are always asking for our advice on standing desks and whether they should get one. Our answer is; yes, they can be helpful if used in the correct way! The idea of the standing desk is to reduce the time spent in a potentially detrimental sitting position and to increase the amount of movement you do throughout the day. However, just because you’re standing doesn’t mean that all your problems are solved. Standing incorrectly or for too long can also have negative effects on the body too! You just can’t win! The best way to use a sit-stand desk is to use it in cycles of 20-30 minutes. Therefore you will be changing positions from sitting to standing alternatively throughout the day. This helps reduce the biomechanical load placed through your muscles and joints. When you’re standing, ensure that your weight is placed evenly through both feet, your core is activated and you’re looking straight ahead.

Standing desk

There are a number of negative effects that are associated with prolonged sitting, these include:

  • From a chiropractic perspective there is increased biomechanical load placed on the structures surrounding the spine and pelvis which can lead to pain and injury.
  • Other general health issues include – increased risk of heart disease, unhealthy blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes, being overweight and obese.

So how do we explain how these negative effects occur? For all of the effects excluding increased biomechanical load, it is thought that prolonged sitting causes muscles to burn less fat for energy and reduced blood flow. Both of these factors can increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure) as well as other problems. Prolonged sitting increases the mechanical load displaced throughout the structures of the spine, especially the intervertebral discs. The more slumped we sit the greater the force throughout the disc. Over long periods of time this can cause microtrauma and damage to the disc, which can increase the risk of injury. Also muscles become tight and ligaments can become stretched which can also lead to pain.

Disc pressure

How can you avoid some of these negative effects? There are a number of techniques you can try to help keep active and mobile at work, these include:

  • Install a standing desk or a sit stand desk at work. If you can’t do it yourself, keep pestering your boss to get one for you!
  • Set reminders on your desktop or phone to get up and move regularly.
  • When taking calls in the office stand up or walk and talk!
  • Go for a walk at lunch.

Key message: Keep moving!!