By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
More and more people are taking a stand for their health, literally. Standing workstations are becoming commonplace in the work environment, at schools and even in the home.
The desks are becoming quite popular and several findings in the last few years have shown the benefits of standing versus sitting for long periods of time. Studies found that adults spend more than half their day doing sedentary activities like sitting at a desk or driving a car, according to a report on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website.
The report also stated that physical inactivity is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Inactivity increases the risks for cardiovascular diseases, stroke, some cancers, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity and more. In 2013, the American Medical Association adopted a policy about the dangers of lengthy sitting and encouraged employees to stand more.
“Prolonged sitting, particularly in work settings, can cause health problems and encouraging workplaces to offer employees alternatives to sitting all day will help to create a healthier workforce,” said Dr. Patrice Harris of the American Medical Association Board in a statement.
Dr. Jeff Snyder, president of Snyder Family Chiropractic in Upper Providence, said sitting for long periods of time puts a lot of stress on the spine. People that are inactive during their work day, like truck drivers for example, tend to have lower back issues, he said. Snyder said the majority of his patients with desk jobs come in complaining of neck or back pain.
Extensive sitting can also cause something called forward head posture, which is when the head leans forward past the shoulders more than it should. The position has adverse effects on the curve of the neck and spine, Snyder said.
“There’s no question that we are not designed for sitting eight hours a day,” he said adding that people should be up and moving to stay healthy. “There are no doubt benefits to using a standing desk.”
According to the Cornell University Ergonomics website, it’s recommended that people break up prolonged sitting with short breaks of standing or moving. Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in the working environment. The “microbreaks” improve performance and reduces the risks of muscle or skeletal injuries.
Byron Kaufman, vice president of sales for EthoSource Furniture, said people have been using standing desks in the office for a while but the workstation really started to gain popularity in the last two years. EthoScource Furniture has locations in King of Prussia, Reading and Morgantown but sell all over the country. The furniture store has several types of standing desks including stations with an adjustable height option and treadmill desks. People are welcomed to visit one of the EthoSource locations and try standing desks for themselves, Kaufman said.
He said about five years ago, people used standing desks as a secondary workstation but in recent years, the desk has become the primary station for many employees. He said electrical height-adjustable desks make it easier for people to sit and stand at the same workstation throughout their day. Kaufman uses this type of standing desk himself and has done so for the past year. Every couple of hours throughout his day, Kaufman will raise his desk height and stand for at least 30 minutes. He said standing prevents him from being sluggish. He’s able to focus more and feels better physically.
“You actually feel a little more energized when you’re standing and working,” Kaufman said. “Sitting all day can have serious detrimental effects on your body.”
Rose Walters of the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation also uses an electrical height-adjustable desk and prefers to stand the majority of her workday.
“I’d say that I stand about 90 percent of my day,” she said.
Walters said she gets tired of sitting and has heard that extensive sitting has the same effects on the body as smoking does. She’s been using a standing desk at work for about two years and says she loves it. The desk has a positive effect on her posture and on her work performance.
“I would say that I’m more focused and I don’t get that mid-afternoon slump,” Walters said.
Instead of paying for an electrical height-adjustable desk, Kaufman said Gateway Ticketing Systems in Gilbertsville purchased two work surfaces to be used in the same cubicle. One was a sitting desk and the other was a stationary standing desk. There are also standing desk convertors that can be used to turn a sitting desk into a standing one.
Treadmill desks have also become popular. In addition to standing while working, the user can also choose to walk or even run while at the desk. Kaufman said a friend of his uses this type of desk on a regular basis. The friend lost 60 pounds in four months and contributes much of his weight loss to his desk.
Kaufman said treadmill desks can be adjusted to different heights. Many people choose to use it for a small part of their day, he said. People still have the ability to use a laptop or talk on the phone while on it, especially if they walk at a slow pace.
Like the workplace, standing desks including treadmill desks are becoming a staple in schools. Each of the six schools in the Pottstown district use standing desks.
“I noticed in classrooms that teachers were allowing their students to stand next to their desk,” said David Genova, Pottstown School District wellness coordinator.
Genova said although the students were standing, they still had to bend over to use their desk. He thought elevated desks would help students be focused and keep them comfortable at the same time. Genova was able to get standing desks in the school with the help of a Fuel Up to Play 60 grant. Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program through the National Dairy Council, USDA and the NFL.
From the grant, $2,000 was given to the Pottstown High School construction technology program to purchase materials and make the standing desks. A group of 15 high school students built the desks. Some of the seniors actually helped design the desks as well as construct them. Construction technology instructor Kyle O’Neill said two different standing desks are used throughout the district. The elementary schools have bigger full desk stations that multiple children can surround. At the high school, the standing desks are built more like podiums.
Pottstown High School senior Troy Rivera, said he was excited when he learned his class would make the standing desks. He said the desks help students stay motivated to learn and he uses the desk in his English class while reading.
“It keeps you up,” he said.
Pottstown High School senior Dan Garcia was happy that he contributed to a project that would help students.
“It feels pretty awesome. We’re helping the community,” he said.
Genova said since the 36 standing desks were spread out through the school district, he’s witnessed a change in students that use them. The children are more willing to participate in the school lesson if their standing rather than sitting, he said.
“So far, I think this is my favorite (wellness) initiative we’ve done,” Genova said.