How Often Should You Stand Up From Your Desk

How Often Should You Stand Up From Your Desk?

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It has been well documented by numerous medical experts that sitting down at your work or office desk for hours on end can adversely affect your health in many ways.

If this seems like old news to you, it should be. A published article stated Three out of Four Full-Time Employees of Large Companies Wish They Didn't Spend Most of Their Working Hours Sitting. That is not surprising. The only thing that might be a bit surprising is that the article is over a decade old. 

At that time, a typical full-time employee at a large U.S. company spent close to 7 hours a day seated while working. Three quarters (73%) of those employees said that they did not like spending so much time sitting at work.

It is a learning opportunity to know that a decade ago, 28% of those same workers who spent at least 30 hours a week working at a computer needed to seek medical attention for issues they felt were related to the prolonged sitting. 

Much knowledge has been gained in the past ten years. Chairs are now ergonomically designed, footrests appear under desks, and the employee is much more aware of the impact that hours of sitting can cause on a person's health. 

There are several solutions to this, and one of the simplest is to simply stand up from your desk.

This then begs the question of how often you should do so, so we are going to answer that in this article along with one or two other tips to help you ensure that working at your desk is not harming your health.

Why Sitting Down The Wrong Way Is Harmful To Your Health

Sitting down might seem an unlikely source of adverse health, given that it is something everyone does literally every day.

Sitting in and of itself is not the issue, but it is more the way in which you sit, and the length of time that you sit that can be problematic.

How you sit is generally termed as your posture, and doubtless, you will have heard people speaking about poor or bad posture.  

Specifically, in relation to sitting, poor posture covers things like slouching, leaning forward with your head, leaning back so that your spine is curved, or sitting with a phone between your neck and shoulders.

All of these can lead to issues with your joints and muscles, and they are especially liable to cause back pain.

Not only is sitting poorly a problem but sitting down for long periods can also create issues for your back. When sitting your back is not in its natural 'S' shape but instead is in a 'C' shape.

This isn't an issue if you are sitting for short periods, but sitting for hours can cause damage to soft tissue in your back and worse than that can cause your disks too.

Why Sitting Down For Long Periods Is Harmful To Your Health

As well the problem with posture, sitting down all day is not a particularly healthy way to spend your time, even if it is part of your job, and you’re getting paid to do so.

The stress on your spine is considerable when you are sitting, and if you are sitting without interruption for several hours at a time that stress is magnified.

Being sedentary for hours on end is certainly not going to add anything to your wellbeing; in fact, it does exactly the opposite. Your body needs movement to be well, and this applies especially to parts of your body like your legs, for example.

If they do not get the opportunity to move, the larger muscles in your legs become weakened and more prone to injuries such as pulls and strains.

The flexor muscles in your hips also depend on regular exercise, even if that is a simple walk. Without it, they shorten, which can lead to issues with your hip joints.

Varicose veins are another unwanted ailment which can be the result of sitting down for long periods. While they are not normally dangerous, they can cause blood clots, which most certainly are.

Your heart and lungs aren't exactly deriving any benefits from you sitting down for hours each day, and the risks of other issues such as weight gain, increased insulin resistance, deep vein thrombosis, and even our mental health have all been shown to be increased in those who sit down all day and get no form of exercise.

Standing Up and Moving Around

While it might not seem like it, standing up from your desk and moving around can be considered a form of exercise. It is certainly a lot more desirable to do so than to remain seated for the entirety of the day.

By getting up and walking around for a minute or so you allow your heart to beat a little stronger and your lungs fill up with more oxygen. These two aspects alone will bring several health benefits.

You are also improving your circulation, giving the muscles and joints in your legs some well-needed movement, and you are releasing the pressure on your back, especially your spine. You are also giving your eyes a welcome rest from your computer monitor.

How Often Should You Stand Up From Your Desk?

The great thing about taking a standing break if you sit for long periods is that they only need to be a minute or two in duration. In terms of how often you do so, there are various views on this, but you should try to stand every 30 minutes or so for the maximum benefit.

The best way to do this is to set a reminder on your computer or an alarm on your smartphone.

This means over an 8-hour workday, you are standing and walking for up to a total of 30 minutes, or 250 minutes each working week, which is bound to be beneficial for your health versus sitting for that length of time.

Activity And Break Apps To Help You Move At Work

Mobile device reminder apps

For iPhones and iPads

Move - Daily Activity to Stay Healthy
Cost: Free

Get reminded every so often to stand up and do a little exercise. Over 300 random workouts keep it exciting (more added every day).

Create a healthy habit through occasional reminders. Pick when you do workouts and how often. Choose your reminder sound. Create your exercises to be absolutely anything you want.

Stand Up! The Work Break Timer
Cost: Free

Completely customizable to your work schedule. Set it and forget it. Set your reminder interval to any five-minute increment between five minutes and two hours.

The header shows you at a glance how you're doing and how long your next alarm is. Limit alarms to your office location, so it doesn't bug you when you go out to lunch.

Randomly RemindMe
Cost: Free

Do you have trouble drinking enough water during the day? Maybe you want a reminder to step away from the computer for a bit.

How about a reminder to stop and do push-ups? Trying to make a habit? Or break one? This app will let you set any number of custom reminders that will remind you throughout the day for that and a whole lot more.

Computer reminder apps

For Windows

Awareness
Cost: Free

Awareness is an app that sets a timer in your menu bar, counting the time you've been active on your computer.

Once you reach a specific period without taking a break, the sound of a bowl will play, reminding you that it's time to step away for a while.

If the app doesn't detect activity in your computer after a set time, the timer will reset; however, if you keep working without taking a break, the next time the timer goes off, the sound of the bowl will be played twice, and so forth.

The app even includes a link to a website where you can find some useful ideas on how to take advantage of your breaks.

Big Stretch Reminder
Cost: Free

Big Stretch is a simple reminder tool that prompts you to take regular breaks and prevent the symptoms from sitting too long. Alternatively, it can be a simple reminder program to tell you when it's your coffee break!

Workrave
Cost: Free

Workrave is a program that reminds you to take micro-breaks throughout the day and can also help you limit your computer usage while at home.

It has settings that let you configure it in a way that works best for you, including when to take breaks and how long they should be. This program also gives you examples of exercises that you can do while on a break. 

For Mac

Awareness
Cost: Free

Awareness helps you become more aware of time spent on the computer by playing the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl to mark every hour of continuous computer use. It also displays how long you've been using your computer without a break in the menu bar. Awareness will never nag you or force you to stop using the computer. Just take a five-minute break whenever you are ready, and Awareness will sense it.

Time Out
Cost: Free

Time Out has two kinds of breaks: a "Normal" break and a "Micro" break. You can disable either kind of break if desired, and the breaks are automatically paused when you go away from your computer and can be reset when you come back.

You can configure how long each kind of break lasts and how long between breaks. Each Time Out is announced via the screen, slowly dimming, with related graphics materializing, and when the break is complete, it fades out again.

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