Once of my favorite media friendly phrases is, “Sitting is the new smoking”. It’s THE catch phrase used by health professionals to blame our sedentary, technology-driven lifestyle for our posture problems.
It’s a true phrase. Sitting makes us lazy. We hunch, we cross our legs, we slump over a computer because sitting makes us tired.
Of course, there are biomechanical challenges to sitting such as: de-activated glute (butt) muscles, weakness and tightness in the hip flexors, less dynamic tension in the calves, and more demand on the upper body to compensate for generalized hip weakness.
So of course the marketplace saw an opportunity here… let’s make everyone STAND! Standing desks have become all the rage, charging companies thousands of dollars to upgrade each employee’s workstation at the expense of becoming ergonomically friendly.
I hear it ALMOST every day… are standing desks better?
Short answer…. YES.
Long answer… Not really.
My YES statement is based on the fact that YES, a standing desk can add value to the body by loading the hips better, removing the restriction on the glutes, and adding more blood flow throughout the system.
HOWEVER (and this is a big however), standing still for hours on end comes with its own problems. Upper body hunching is still prevalent at a standing desk. The position and placement of a keyboard can still cause neck and back pain (practice how easy it is to “hunch” even when you are standing).
It’s common to thrust your hips forward when working at a standing desk causing “sway back”. This particular postural deviation can cause dysfunction in the shoulders, again, creating tension in the neck and upper back. Here is an image of me in sway back while working at my standing desk:
So wait, what is the solution to the problem if standing desks only resolve part of the problem?
This is a huge question. One that is hard to answer, because at the end of the day there is no perfect solution to the fact that your job, your lifestyle, and your technology has contributed to this need to be physically STILL and staring at a computer screen. At the end of the day, the problem here is that our bodies were designed for LOAD and DEMAND to be placed on them on a regular basis.
We were designed to squat, bend, lift, walk, climb, push, pull, and carry our food, our children, our dwelling. We were designed for manual labor.
So what happens now that our everyday life no longer matches how our bodies were designed? Clearly there is a disparity that is causing unprecedented levels of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction… how do we resolve this?
Here are some ideas:
- Go ahead and invest in a sit/stand desk and alternate throughout the day. This way the body gets varying different demands throughout the day and you’re not SITTING or STANDING for extended periods of time at any given moment.
- Get movement throughout your day that activates the proper muscles in the posterior (back) side of the body. Make a habit of walking up and down the stairs and doing posture type exercises in breaks throughout your day. VerticAlign offers an amazing program with our “10 Minute Daily Desk Pain Solution” which takes the guesswork out of which exercises to do and gives you the accountability of a daily coach to assist you.
- When sitting, use a chair such as a ball chair or this ErgoErgo chair to help get more movement into your sitting time.
- Exercise daily. Don’t just run or walk or climb or bike. Try to integrate posture-friendly exercises that involve multiplanar, multi joint activities and exercises that engage the posterior chain of the body (calves, hamstrings, glutes, calves). VerticAlign can assist with this by creating a daily posture therapy menu for you to do on your own.
It takes work and commitment to fight the disparity between what our bodies were designed to do and what our bodies are required to do daily. Sitting or standing stationary should be considered a “sport”, which takes daily “cross training” to help us stay healthy within this sporting activity.
All the fancy equipment (standing desks, posture braces) in the world cannot take the place of a strong, aligned body that responds properly to physical load and demand on a daily basis.
Comment below as I would love to hear YOUR experience with a standing desk and how it’s helped or hurt you.