Stand Up For Your Health at Your Desk Job

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These days, so many jobs require sitting at a desk for hours on end, hunched over a keyboard. So, what exactly can we do to help prevent the aches and pains that tend to come along with sitting? We asked Holly Bruinsma, exercise physiologist at AdventHealth, for tips on keeping your workspace ergonomically correct.

First things first, she says, you need to make sure your desk is set up to fit you. Make sure you're in natural, neutral working postures without causing any grip forces or contact stress, she says. Make sure your office furniture is comfortable and fits your stature.

Second, get out of your chair as often as you can. The recommendation is every 15 to 20 minutes stand for a few seconds; every hour, take a brisk walk for 3 to 4 minutes or climb stairs for 6 to 8 minutes every two hours, she says.

Here's the deal: When you're sedentary for long periods of time, your body isn't working as efficiently as it should. So, it comes as no surprise that sitting is linked to conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. 

When should you try options beyond a traditional desk? 

If you've had back pain daily for 3 months or weekly pain for more than six months, a standup desk option can be helpful. However, caution should be advised to those looking at this option for several reasons.

One, if you have a history of cardiovascular disease or family history, its recommended to seek physician approval first before beginning a standing-desk routine. Also, only 30 percent of your day should be standing, 20 minutes intervals as this also becomes a static posture and the lower body feet, ankles and legs begin to fatigue especially depending on the shoe worn and the floor standing on. Keep in mind, jobs that require standing require anti-fatigue mats and/or anti-fatigue shoes.

What are your thoughts on treadmill desks? 

Treadmill desks aren't something you can choose to use solely or as a permanent solution to avoid the static working posture of a desk job. Some offices have one treadmill desk shared amongst the department, and they sign up to use it for a period of up to two hours walking at a slow pace about 1.0 mph. Again, from an ergonomic standpoint it's not the recommendation to go with. The sit to stand desk is a better investment and choice.

Does sitting on a yoga ball help?  

Sitting on a stability ball or likewise isn't recommended from an ergonomics standpoint. Ergonomics is about prevention and providing a comfortable and safe chair with natural/neutral postural support for the worker for the duration of greater than four hours per day. A ball doesn't allow height adjustability for proper fit at desk for neutral working postures. It doesn't provide lumbar support. Also, it can be a hazard when going to sit down if the ball rolls away from underneath you. If you have space in your office to have a task chair and a ball, I'd recommend using the ball as a micro break to change postures and stretch.

When sitting at your desk, here are some tips:

  • Keep your feet resting on the floor or on an angled footrest.
  • Keep your back supported with a chair that has lumbar support. Keep in mind, you should be able to put two to three fingers in between the back of your knee and the seat.
  • Keep your elbows at desk or keyboard level.
  • Keep the top of the monitor at eye level or 1-2 inches below eye level for bifocal/trifocal.
  • Use a headset for phone use if you use the phone more than two hours per day, and use a document holder for data entry if you are doing this more than 2 hours per day.

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