Here at the ACAC we like to practice good office ergonomics: it’s why we use headsets or speakerphone instead of cradling the phone between our ear and shoulder. It’s also why we have ergonomic keyboards and mice. It’s why we take stretch breaks and do posture strengthening stretches … and it’s why in January we decided our resolution would be to sit less and stand more.

We’re an office that’s just like most in Canada. We all do the majority of our work on computers, which means most of our days were spent sitting. In January a review study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine revealed that sitting for prolonged periods actually increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer regardless of regular exercise, which gave us even more reason to reduce our sedentary behaviours at work.

“Enjoying good musculoskeletal health is an important factor in feeling energetic and strong. Our bodies are not designed to sit – rather, we are meant to be upright and mobile, or squat. As many of us fall prey to the ergonomics of sitting for many hours a day, usually in front of a computer, the advantages of a variable desk system, which offers the options to stand, sit or sit at stool height is desirable,” says Dr. Judy Forrester, a Calgary chiropractor.

“It is the change in position throughout the day that provides healthy postural stresses on our bones, joints and soft tissues. Standing with our feet wide-based, knees slightly bent, with a small amount of sideways movement (sway) is the optimum advantage of standing at a desk. The opportunity to minimize your exposure to low back pain and related spinal conditions is a huge benefit with the variable height desk,” said Dr. Forrester.

It’s been about six weeks since we added a very simple desktop unit that allow us to raise our working surface with just two levers. The entire unit is on hydraulics, making it effortless to go from sitting to standing in only seconds. In the six weeks that we’ve had these variable height desk units our team has definitely reported feeling less stress and strain in their low back and shoulders. Additionally we’re feeling stronger in our core, and sit and stand with improved posture. For most of us we also notice we stretch more often. It just feels good to move. So, really, (if you’ll pardon us the pun) we’d say our results have been… outstanding.

Tips for easing into a variable height desk:

  1. Get an anti-fatigue mat. Your feet will not be used to standing all day and a mat can help ease tired toes and sore ankles.
  2. Wear flat shoes or stand in sock feet on the mat. You’ll notice you may start to automatically stretch your feet, which is great for circulation.
  3. Start with an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon to gradually ease into standing more. You probably won’t be used to standing all day and it will take time to learn to do the elements of your job while standing.
  4. Keep your feet shoulder width apart and try moving from side-to-side. You’ll notice it will keep the blood from pooling in your legs (and may even help burn a few extra calories).
  5. Sit if you feel tired. Either grab a bar-height stool or lower the desk to a full sitting level. Some days we do just need to sit.