Sitting vs. standing workstations

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Sitting vs. standing workstations


Group of business people working on an office desk

20 May 2015

In the last decade there has been countless studies on the health risks associated with too much sitting. Many of us sit for hours on end at work, during our daily commute and during our leisure time. But what is the best way to combat sedentary behaviour?

Standing desks have been identified as a possible solution to lessen sitting time, but can standing fight against the risks associated with the ‘chair disease’?

Many health experts are concerned that people may have got the wrong idea on sit/stand stations. Alan Hedge, Design and Workplace Ergonomic Expert, says “Standing all day isn’t the answer. That is where we were 100 years ago, and we needed to develop chairs to prevent curvature of the spine, backaches, and varicose veins”

Whilst standing burns more calories, it may not be as many as you think. Sedentary behaviour is described as activities with low energy expenditure. The Journal of Exercise and Sport Sciences classifies sedentary as a level of 1.0-1.5 metabolic equivalent units (METs). Sittings burns roughly 1 MET, whereas standing burns 1.3 MET; by definition standing is still considered sedentary.

With that being said, research reveals people that have the option to stand generally move more. But by no means is a standing station necessary to make us move!

12 ways to sit less and move more

Moving is the only activity that has proven to curb sedentary behaviour. Our bodies are designed to move so breaking up sitting time with movement can really improve our health. As a rule of thumb, we should move every 30 minutes.

These are our tips to move more at work:

  • Download a rest reminder software that reminds you to move and stretch throughout the day. At USC, we offer Workrave through the software centre.

  • Place a game or puzzle in a visible common area and encourage people to take short breaks to contribute a piece.

  • Start a fitness challenge with colleagues (10 000 steps, squat challenge).

  • Walk whenever possible (walking meetings, take the stairs, go for lunchtime walks, and walk to a colleague’s desk rather than phone or email).

  • Stand at the back of the room during presentations.

  • Eat lunch away from your desk.

Move more at home:

  • Be aware of time spent sitting in front of the TV, computer or reading a book.

  • Use travel time to incorporate physical activity.

  • Start a new hobby with friends or family (why not try swimming, gardening, cycling, golfing, dancing or rock climbing).

  • Do your own household chores (mow the lawn or wash your car).

  • Catch up with friends or family over a walk.

  • Wear a pedometer that measures your daily steps.

What do you think is the best way to combat sedentary behaviour?
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