Stand up desks, a few things to consider.
In an effort to help us be more functional and able, the work place has begun adapting desks to a standing position over a seated one. While I agree with this notion it does carry with it necessary changes to consider and the need for guidance during its implementation:
- The transition can be challenging for those who are active and for those who are not. The act of standing all day at a desk is more of a workout than anything and not everyone will be able to transition smoothly without some help, guidance and ideas on how to implement it seamlessly. While they are no better off sitting all day, they are not strong enough to stand all day either. This will simply bring about other complications and ultimately they will fail with the standing solution. Below is a list of concepts to consider for this transition:
- Slow Transition: stand for 30 minutes, then sit for 30 minutes à this is only an outline not a rule. Each person will have to find their comfort zone with this process. Designing a chart that will allow them to plot it out on a visual scale will allow them to see their own progress which will help them understand their progress.
- Strength: They will need strengthening exercises for their entire posterior chain. Now that they are standing, their lower and upper extremities will need attention. This strengthen can go along with their natural progress to standing. I believe most posture issues can originate from the functional mechanics of a stable spine, both Lumbar and Cervical, so that is a great place to begin. Since sitting for hours a day is not what humans were built for, we have to address the inherent weakness that go along with that activity. Weaknesses in the glutes, hamstrings, ‘core’, and postural muscles should be identified and a strengthening program implemented to assist in this transition. The program can change and grow with the individual as they do.
- Flexibility: This is a big one. For those who sat for hours at a time, their soft tissues may have tightened up for various reasons, including the sedentary act of sitting. Now, they are actively standing, their tightness will originate through the process of activity and they will need to learn good mobility and flexibility programs both at work and at home to help them progress and sustain the ability to stand all day over sitting.
- Nutrition: This is akin to flexibility as this transition goes on, it requires more energy to stand than sit. So their nutritional ‘weak spots’ need to be addressed as to not exert more energy than they take in and create a caloric deficit, which in turn will weaken them as the day goes on and ultimately cause them to be tired and affect job performance.
- Hydration / Electrolytes: Now that they are standing or progressing to, the need for hydration and electrolyte balance increases. Hydration is important for everyone on a daily basis already, as are electrolytes, but for the employee who now stands for 6-8hrs a day, it becomes a necessity much like food. A lack in this requirement can cause muscle dysfunction, cramping, fatigue, weakness, loss of focus and again affect energy levels and work performance.
The idea of having standing desks is great for the worker, however it does come with some ‘problems’ as it becomes the norm. A properly trained individual is necessary to aid in the transition as everyone will have weaknesses and issues that need to be addressed. Since the ultimate goal is to help the worker be less prone to injury and healthier overall, it is important to incorporate a program that includes all of the aforementioned concepts and assistance during implementation to maintain work productivity and employee comfort and compliance. Since every employee is different, they will each need varying adaptations to the desk set up and position to maintain functionality. Always remember, humans were not meant to stand all day any more than they were meant to sit. Variation and adaptation are the keys to success!