Take a Stand

You may have heard sitting is bad for your health, but does that mean we should stand all day instead?

If you’re an average office worker, then you’re probably spending over six hours a day sitting at work. Studies tell us that prolonged sitting may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke, even if you’re a keen exerciser. Sitting without breaks can also lead to a sore and stiff neck, shoulders and back.

But standing all day can be hard on your body too, and a combination of sitting and standing seems to bring the most benefits. In 2015, the British Journal of Sports Medicine published a review of the scientific evidence on how to best address sedentary behaviour in the office. They recommended ‘accumulating at least two hours per day of standing and light activity (such as light walking) during working hours.’

The sit-stand desk

One popular solution to the increasing sedentary nature of our jobs is the sit-stand desk, which allows you to move between sitting and standing while at work. But how do you use these to ensure you get the recommended two hours of standing or light activity?

The answer, according to Alan Hedge, Cornell University ergonomist, is the Sit-Stand-Stretch or 20-8-2 regimen. The involves, for every 30 minutes of your workday:

  • 20 minutes of sitting (in good posture)
  • 8 minutes of standing, and
  • 2 minutes standing and moving.

For an average workday of seven and half hours, standing for two hours and moving for 30 minutes.

Tomato time

Even if you don’t have access to a standing desk you can still take regular breaks from sitting. One way to do this is to work in 25-minute bursts, after which you stand up and take a five-minute break. This is also known as the Pomodoro Technique, so named because the bursts of time can be measured using little tomato-shaped kitchen timers – Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

Use your five-minute break to move your body – perhaps walking to the kitchen to refill your water glass or grab a tea or coffee, or doing some simple neck, shoulder and back stretches.

If you don’t have a tomato timer, there are plenty of apps online that can keep track of your sessions.