Take a stand at your desk for better health; less back and neck pain
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If you’re at the office reading this, chances are you’re sitting down. But according to experts, your health would greatly improve if you ditched that chair and stood up.
“I actually tell my clients that sitting is to your spine as sugar is to your teeth,” said Dr. Jordan Leasure, a chiropractor and co-owner of North Shore Pro-Active Health in Libertyville.
Leasure, who uses a desk that allows her to both stand and sit, says that while the body was designed to move, most peoples’ lifestyles make standing impossible. This means, more patients with chronic back and neck pain.
“Human beings were meant to move – when they first got here, they had to hunt, and gather and cook to survive,” Leasure said. “But now, most humans spend their days being sedentary. They sit to get ready in the morning, they sit in transportation to their job where they then sit all day, sit at dinner, sit when they watch TV and go to sleep. Because of this lack of movement during the 9-5, I’m noticing a lot more of my clients are trying to get standing desks at work.”
The standing desk concept evolved from ergonomics, which is the science of fitting the workplace furniture, tools and equipment to the worker. While the term “ergonomics” first came on the scene in the 1950s, standing desks didn’t start showing up on office furniture showrooms until the late 1980s. Jeff Meltzer, owner of office furniture supplier Applied Ergonomics in Skokie, said when he started his business in the late 1990s, standing desks were a tough sell.
“When I started my company over 20 years ago, maybe 10 percent of my business was into ergonomics,” Meltzer says. “Now, almost all of the offices we are doing are incorporating ergonomics and standing desks into the facility. Sales have increased 10 fold in the last five years. The world has certainly caught on to the benefit of standing for part of the day.”
Meltzer says he believes the misconceptions about costs are preventing even more businesses from getting on board.
“People think these desks are too expensive, but you don’t have to re-do an entire office to incorporate the benefits,” said Meltzer.
Costs for standing desks usually range from $25 to $1,200 depending on size and materials.
“Not everyone wants to spend the money to re-do every cubicle with all new desks,” Meltzer said. “But we can retrofit a base onto the existing desk where the height is adjustable, and that’s a start.”
And once people see how efficiently they can move around their work area being on their feet, Meltzer said it’s a game changer.
“For years my mantra has been ‘reaching is the enemy’ because reaching causes twisted backs, or your neck can be at a bad angle trying to see your computer screen,” he said. “Being sedentary in a bad chair with bad posture is not a good thing. Quality of life is mattering to employees, and now the employers are hearing about it.”
Here are some other advantages to standing vs. sitting
Lowers pain levels
“Standing desk users reported a 32 percent improvement in low back pain after a couple weeks,” Leasure said. “And neck and upper back pain was reduced by over fifty percent in 4 weeks.”
“The efficacy of how well you can take a breath and oxygenate your system is better when you stand,” Leasure said. “It not only improves energy levels but it also improves the cardiovascular system, and your posture.”
A new way of doing business
“‘Wellness’ is a word that comes up with my customers a lot more than it used to, and business owners are starting to really understand this,” Meltzer said. “The younger generation of workers is expecting a more mobile, work-life balance environment. They want a space that has flexibility so they can collaborate. As the job market has gotten tighter as well, the facility becomes a recruiting advantage or disadvantage, depending on how the business is designed.”
“Employees may be in the building but it doesn’t mean they’re being as productive as they could be if they were feeling energetic or happy and healthy,” Leasure said. “It’s not standard in the marketplace that employees should be standing, but I think that is really starting to change.”