How to switch from sitting to standing at work

A lot has been written about the negative effects of sitting for long periods of time while at work. The question is how do you go from sitting all day to standing all day, and should you?

It’s a balancing act

The first thing to know is that the optimum solution will see you switching between standing and sitting during your workday. Research has shown that sitting all day can lead to health conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease and musculoskeletal problems. However, standing for long periods can cause tiredness and discomfort as well as damage to lower joints, inflammation in the feet and legs, and muscular fatigue. Varying your position and adding more movement to your day is key.

Use a sit-stand desk

Replacing your old desk with a sit-stand desk with an electric motor makes it possible to swap from a seated position to a standing one at the push of a button. This means you can vary your position whenever you want, letting you stand for as much or as little time as you can manage.

Start slowly

We recommend starting slowly. At first, try standing just for half an hour a day then gradually increase this up to several hours a day. By standing for three hours a day you burn 750 calories a week: the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year!

A recent study showed that sit-stand desks effectively reduce sitting time but that this change takes place slowly over a number of months. The study followed 146 NHS staff over a one-year period, of whom 77 participants were given a height-adjustable desk. At the start of the trial period, the staff involved were spending an average of 9.7 hours a day sitting down. The amount of time spent sitting decreased by over 80 minutes over the course of the study: at three months it had decreased by an average of 50.62 minutes a day, at six months by 64.4 minutes a day and at 12 months by 82.39 minutes a day.

Try an active chair

An active sitting chair is another smart choice that allows you to keep moving even when you need to sit down by encouraging the same natural shifts in posture that occur when standing or walking. Try switching out your current chair for an hour or two at a time at first. As your core muscles grow stronger and your spine adjusts to the change in posture, it will become easier to use your active chair for longer. An active chair also strengthens the muscles you use when standing, making it the perfect halfway point between sitting and standing.

Get a standing desk mat

A standing desk mat is a small, anti-fatigue mat that makes it easier to stand by encouraging micro-movements underfoot to improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart and evenly distribute pressure throughout the lower limbs. This reduces the strain on muscles and joints and helps alleviate any pain from standing. The mat is easy to lift up so you can move it out of the way when you want to sit instead.

Hold standing meetings

Do you have a lot of meetings at work? If you do, this could be a good opportunity to stand up. With a sit-stand meeting table, you can easily hold stand-up meetings. As an added bonus, standing helps keep meetings short and to the point.

The most important thing is to start changing your behaviour at work to increase your levels of physical activity and reduce your risk of health problems. Remember that gradual changes are easier to sustain over the long term so take it one step at a time and don’t try to run before you can walk. See if you can convince some colleagues to join you, after all it’s always easier to keep up lifestyle changes when you have support.