Are standing desks a good idea?


At least once a day, I have someone ask me what they can do to prevent hip and lower back pain. I reply by asking them, “Well, how much of the day do you spend sitting?”

When they start to think about it, they realize that they sit while driving, when they eat, most of the day at work, at home on the couch, in the restroom, and so on. In fact, most of us sit the majority of the day, sometimes not even getting up for short breaks. Whether we’re in the car, at home, or at work, sitting for long periods of time can be harmful to our health. Staying in a seated position can cause an issue called Lower Crossed Syndrome.

Lower Crossed Syndrome is the result of excessive sitting. This is when our abdominal muscles and glutes weaken, and the lower back and hip flexors become tight and hypertonic. Sitting will cause your pelvis to move more anterior (forward), which will create a more curved lower back. As a result of these structural compensations, you can develop hip and lower back pain.

Sitting too much can also lead to the breakdown of cartilage in one’s joints. Motion and joint pressure circulate nutrients to joint cartilage, and when one is sitting too much, those nutrients don’t get to the cartilage, leading it to deteriorate.

Lastly, sitting is sometimes referred to as the new smoking in that it has been linked to increased risks of obesity, neck pain, back and sciatic pain, cardiovascular disease, cancer, anxiety and depression, diabetes, etc. We usually relate aches and pains to fire alarms in our bodies. It’s our body’s way of saying, “something is wrong and you need to fix it or the building is going to burn down”. If left alone, this is when we start to experience more severe, habitual health issues like the ones listed. Our lifestyle and environment strongly relate to our health.

We all need to work, and for most of us, that requires a lot of sitting, but there are actions that we can do in order to combat the negative effects of sitting. The first would be to get a sitting/standing desk and use both settings throughout the day. One should also stand, stretch and walk at least every hour. Stretching and exercising help, but it is in conjunction with breaking up the hours of sitting we do during the workday that is most important. If people can take coffee and smoke breaks, why can’t you take a health break and walk outside?

I think of being healthy as a journey and not just a destination we achieve once and never have to work at again. Health is a continual, conscious effort we must maintain our entire lives. So, get up and move, your health is depending on it!


-Dr. Steve

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