I started this blog a few weeks ago and since then have spent a fair amount of time researching impacts of seated work and recommendations for improving health and wellness at work. I have considered several options to determine what my next step should be in addition to trying (moderately successfully) to take more breaks and move more through my work day. My step count on the Fitbit that sits on my wrist mocking me day in and day out has hovered at an embarrassingly low number that I will not be sharing in this blog.
After weeks of research I have an increasing awareness of the health risks associated with constant sitting, different set of health risks associated with constant standing, and numerous suggestions for improving health and wellness at work. We can adjust our workstations to be as ergonomic as possible, we can take more breaks, move more, perform stretches, exercises, increase mindfulness particularly around posture which can compound the issue, and then we can alter our workstations entirely. We can convert to sit-stand workstations, we can add a treadmill to a standing or sit-stand workstation, we can use a cycling desk, and there are pros and cons of each. Ultimately, we each need to decide which modification or combination of modifications will work with us as individuals and is compatible with the type of work we perform, our work environments, budget and space constraints.
I was surprised that since starting this blog, despite adjusting my desk setup to incorporate workstation ergonomics, checking in and adjusting my posture, incorporating breaks and moving a bit more, I had continually increasing lower back pain. This lower back pain caused me more and more concern until last week when I struggled to make it through my work days and would turn in early in the hopes that lying in bed would alleviate the pain enough to make it through the next day.
This week my lower back pain is gone and I have my sit-stand desk and frequent transitions between sitting and standing to thank. Actually, if I am being completely honest, I started writing this blog seated and transitioned to standing at the beginning of this paragraph when I noticed the first signs of discomfort. As I write this, I am only mid-way into the work week after a long weekend. I had a nice break from frequent sitting and then started alternating between sitting and standing two days ago. I am shocked at how quickly my back pain has disappeared and only wish I had moved from a seated to a sit-stand setup sooner.
There is information on how long we should stand versus sit, and I have not explored that area enough to understand the basis of the recommendations and how reliable they are. Thus far, the frequency of transition has been easy for me. I generally stand as soon as I notice any discomfort in my chair or a need to move, and I sit back down when I feel tired from standing or an urge to rest. The transitions themselves are short breaks as I wheel my chair out of the way or back into position and change the height of my desk through the motorized up/down buttons. The beauty of standing is that I can take a few steps away from my desk as I am on a conference call (I wear a wireless headset), or if I am trying to gather my thoughts for a task I am working on. It naturally incorporates movement that I would never think to incorporate from a seated position. Even now it strikes me as odd to stand up from a chair, walk five to ten steps in the area around my desk, and sit down again.
I have nearly doubled my typical step count, giving the Fitbit far less opportunity to mock me, and have found that I am able to notice and maintain better posture when I alternate between sitting and standing. With only two pain-free days under my belt, it is difficult to have confidence that I have found the cure-all for the sedentary job. There are reports that the use of sit-stand workstations wane after time, so I will plan to report back periodically on how the sit-stand work life pans out after weeks and months in and out of the saddle.