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Sitting for Too Long - A Problem that People Often Neglect

23 March 2023

We take sitting down for granted, it is a very common human activity but it can be something that we do for far too long in the course of our normal lives. If you have an office job, the chances are that you are sitting down for the vast majority of the day, before then going home and sitting down some more until the end of the day, when you start all over again. It can actually be really bad for our longer-term health to live such a sedentary lifestyle, even people who go to the gym and exercise regularly are often sitting down more than they should be through the course of the day.

One of the best ways that you can combat this is to invest in a quality height-adjustable desk, sometimes referred to as a standing desk. These desks allow you to change the height settings so that you are able to stand up for at least part of the day and stretch out your back to help achieve a healthier posture.

What Are the Benefits of Regularly Standing Up?

There are a great many benefits to standing up. Human beings weren't designed to sit as long as we currently do and that is often one of the causes of back pain in adults as they get older. The core and leg muscles that would have been used regularly to support the standing posture have often been eroded somewhat through lack of use, and this causes slouching, poor posture and back pain.

The widely respected Harvard Business Review says: "Standing is better for the back than sitting. It strengthens leg muscles and improves balance. It burns more calories than sitting. It is also a great antidote to the formation of blood clots deep in the legs."

Increase Core Strength

Being able to increase your core strength will see your abdominal muscles begin to tighten and pain that you habitually experience in your lower to mid back should slacken off slightly. Because your core muscles are benefitting, this means that it will be easier to stand for longer and you may find that your balance improves a little as a result too. A stronger core leads to better balance generally as your body feels less inclined to move to one side or the other while standing.

Increased Productivity

Standing rather than sitting can increase the blood flow throughout the body and can therefore increase your levels of alertness and awareness. This means that you are far more likely to be able to find a productive headspace to get more work done than if you were sitting for the whole day.

If you work from home and you feel like your productivity is struggling, this may be just the solution to help get you back on track once more. Your body has to expend more energy to stand unaided, so this is actually also a good way to burn some easy calories.

Take things easy and slowly increase the amount of time that you use the height-adjustable desk. The optimum amount of time to work up to is around 70% to 80% of your working day standing up. It may initially feel very challenging to do but sitting too long is something that your body gets used to doing and it can be hard to break the habit. Persevere and it will slowly but surely become easier as the days then the weeks pass.

Getting up and moving around more during the day generally as well can help to increase your circulation and stop you from succumbing to the dreaded "3pm slump" that afflicts many office workers. Many turn to either caffeine or sweet treats in order to get around the but both of these can also be bad for you when used every day to artificially alter your energy levels.

Some people talk about riding the "caffeine rollercoaster" as the increased alertness that is a temporary effect is only offset against the slump that will come later in the day when the effect of the caffeine wears off. It can help to think of drinking a cup of coffee as "borrowing" energy from later in the day.   

If you are considering a standing desk, it may also be worth investing in a comfort mat as well, as this can make standing for long periods of time more comfortable for your feet and legs.

Improved Posture

Human beings weren't meant to sit down as often as the current generations are prone to doing. When humans first evolved, they were on their feet most of the time and were highly refined and muscled so that they could tackle the predators that threatened their survival.

The body adapts to what it is used to and in the same way as early homo sapiens became both muscular and fleet of foot because of their environmental factors, people these days are finding their bodies adapting to sitting in a chair all day. If they regularly hunch over a computer, they may see the beginnings of curvature of the spine.

Standing, on the other hand, straightens the spine and helps your abdominal muscles to get stronger, the more often you do it. It will feel painful and unfamiliar at first but if you have invested in a standing desk that is height-adjustable, you will be able to change how high or low it is. Remember that you are allowed to sit down, just try not to do it all the time.

Allocate some time each day to stand and to sit and try hard to stick to this. You can even try the Pomodoro method whereby you complete a task in a set time standing up, then get a rest period sitting down, before standing up for the next work period. This is a great way to help you to get used to standing up and working, while at the same time using the Pomodoro method, which is a well-known productivity tool, to make sure you are achieving the best results that you can for your work.