The Spider Sit Stand from ergoCentric Seating Systems offers adjustable seat height and a tilting seat pan. (www.ergocentric.com)

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Sit Stand Stations

The human body responds best to a balance between static and dynamic activity, between activity and recovery, between sitting and standing.

I have been providing ergonomic and health care services for more than 12 years and have been shocked at the number of people who are now convinced sitting will kill them. Recently, I have been hearing comments such as, "The more you sit, the earlier you die"; "Sitting will reduce my life span"; and "I really want to stand and work to reduce my cholesterol."

Why has standing been labeled "life saving"?

So what has caused people to pay attention to standing at work? We know standing burns more calories than sitting. Standing causes more muscle activity than sitting, and burning calories combats obesity. Movement can help to combat a sedentary lifestyle. It is important to recognize that while standing does provide health benefits, it is not a substitute for exercise.

The best option for users who face long hours of sedentary work is to use a combination of sitting and standing. We can achieve this balance in an office environment in a variety of ways.

Have you ever stood in a long line, stood during a concert, or even had a job that required you to stand all day? If so, you know how stressful this can be to your body. Maybe you had swollen legs and perhaps even experienced back pain. You may recall after standing for a period, you started shifting your weight. This was a sign the body experienced fatigue and was prompting you to move and shift the stress to another area. You may even recall taking on a "bad" posture, such as locking your knees, relaxing your abdominal muscles (which creates a sway back), or standing on one leg (causing asymmetry throughout the entire spine) to get relief.

Let's look at three different solutions for computer workstations. The first category includes height-adjustable workstations. These are workstations that can be adjusted for sitting and moved for standing. Some options are electric desks (which are easiest to adjust but may be expensive), manually adjusting stations, and crank types.

The second category is a standing workstation. This is a fixed-height desk that is adjusted to the user in standing. A stool should be used with this type of workstation if a user is spending several hours there. The third category is the traditional workstation involving a standard seated-height desk and standard adjustable chair.

Limitations to Standing
Consider whether raising one person’s desk may decrease privacy for the employee and others in the area. For example, with shorter cubicle walls, raising an employee's desk may elevate the person enough so that his or her voice now carries over the wall, distracting other workers. The person may feel awkward being "above" other employees who are still sitting. If neighbors are working with confidential information, the monitor may now be visible to a standing employee.

Professional Ergonomic Evaluations
Computer users with medical issues should be carefully evaluated. A physical or medical condition may indicate standing for prolonged periods will create additional risk factors for a computer user. Edema, knee or foot pathology, venous stasis, blood clots, and bone or joint diseases are just a few examples of conditions that have to be evaluated carefully. Medical issues such as these are some reasons people seek professional advice. Professional ergonomic evaluations often are used to evaluate the necessity and safety of a sit stand workstations. The professional evaluation should include assessing the likelihood a user will adjust and use the workstation properly.

What Should We Do?
Keep it simple! As with most things in life, moderation is key. The human body responds best to a balance between static and dynamic activity, between activity and recovery, between sitting and standing.

You have to move, and you have to be supported in safe postures. You have to balance your day. Here are some tips for doing just that.

A guide to staying healthy at seated workstations:

  • Learn how to adjust your chair appropriately.
  • Adjust keyboard and mouse height to proper levels to decrease strain on the back.
  • Keep feet on the floor so legs can move freely.
  • Add in movement.

A guide to staying healthy at standing workstations:

  • A standing workstation is one in which the user is working at a fixed-height desk at a standing level.
  • Use a supportive adjustable stool to sit periodically.
  • Use an elevated foot rest when sitting.
  • Make sure the keyboard/mouse height and monitor height are all ideal in both sitting and standing postures.
  • Stand on an anti-fatigue mat.
  • Wear supportive shoes. Replace them frequently.
  • Be aware of poor postures that come from standing for too long.

A guide to staying healthy at sit stand workstations:

  • Remember to alternate postures. Use a timer if it is hard to remember when to change.
  • Sit for 1-2 hours, stand for 1-2 hours.
  • Understand ideal keyboard and mouse height, ideal monitor placement, and how to adjust your chair.
  • Pay attention to how your body is responding, and make sure you ask for help if you need it.

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