Is standing better than sitting?
May 26, 2011 6:52 AM   Subscribe

How much better is standing than sitting when using computer?

I had read a study recently that said many of our health problems are caused by our sitting for so many hours during the day rather than standing.

But is it merely standing or the act of moving around that improves health?

Specifically, I spend a good deal of time using my computer, a desktop model. Would it make sense to use some sort of standing arrangement with a laptop so I do not sit, or is there little to be gained by such a move/
thanks in advance
posted by Postroad to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a subscriber to the too-much-of-anything-is-bad philosophy, so consider mixing it up. I wanted both standing and sitting options and ended up with an Adjusta workbench from the fine people at AnthroCart. I think that's a pretty good way to go if you want the standing option, and you could continue working the desktop machine (presumably with a nicer keyboard/mouse, etc.). Working standing with a laptop presents a bunch of other ergonomic problems.

I've been following these studies as well, Postroad. I dug a bit beyond the latest doom and gloom one (if you sit, you will die, and soon) and found another that looked at three postures: sitting in a nice ergonomic position, sitting in a poor ergonomic position, and reclining at a 135 degree angle La-Z-Boy style. The study found that the reclining position was a huge benefit, while whether you sit smartly or stupidly upright was equally crappy for you. That had me briefly coveting the Balans Gravity chair, but I've since not been able to justify the $2K price tag, nor the general weird looks I'd get for having one. But it does seem intuitive to me that sitting back like that would be of tremendous benefit to my poor (insert repetitive stress injured part(s) of body here).
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:10 AM on May 26, 2011

Standing burns more calories and is better for your back - stand and be helathier. You will want to be able to sit sometimes as well though because prolonged standing produces its own stresses on your back as the support muscles fatigue.
posted by caddis at 7:13 AM on May 26, 2011

The main focus seems to be that any activity other then sitting is better then sitting.

There's this infographic going around lately saying "sitting is killing you" which I believe is based/related to the study you read. (I also think it's very scare tatic-y. Like mcstayinskoool said, doom and gloom)

You would expend more energy, build more muscle, etc if you walked.. but even standing still requires muscles that sitting doesn't.
posted by royalsong at 7:14 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

So I'm recovering from a ruptured disc so I've spent a lot of time researching this kind of stuff. One thing standing does for you, from a back perspective, is not allow you to rest your back on something - which is generally kind of bad. If you lean back into a chair back, your muscles don't support your back, they relax, and the full weight of your upper body rests on your spine, which is bad.

Standing makes your back muscles work, and strengthens them. Sitting on an excercise ball does the same thing. A chair with proper lumbar support helps also.

I've moved to using a ball to sit on for a lot of the day, and I'm working on setting up a standing desk.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:16 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

IMO a lot of it comes from the fact that chairs are terrible for the body and hold the abs in a bad position, as well as squashing the glutes and hamstrings, which cause trigger points in the muscles, distort the whole posture and cause things like back problems, sciatica and rsi.

I try to sit in them as little as possible, choosing to stand or squat. It's true it is an issue standing and working for long hours as well, but I'd rather do that and take breaks than sit in a chair.

You mention using a laptop for standing. This won't necessarily be very good because you have to type and look down at the screen and have it near which will be a bad posture.

I would put your screen at a comfortable height to view and distance away, and make sure your keyboard and mouse are adjustable with trays etc to be at a relaxed height for typing.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:18 AM on May 26, 2011

I alternate between standing and bouncing on a "swopper" chair. I has changed how I feel dramatically and is one of the best purchases of my life.
posted by Studiogeek at 7:20 AM on May 26, 2011

Something else to mention is that if you stand while using a computer, make sure the keyboard is at the right angle. We have people at work that stand at their computers for their job (standing is regular; they never sit), and their wrists hurt so much at the end of the day that we have hired quite experienced ergonomic folks just to address the angle of the computer keyboard.
posted by TinWhistle at 7:27 AM on May 26, 2011

ENERGY WELL SPENT In METs (metabolic equivalent to task), a measure of energy exerted for a given activity. (Graph)

It's from this article - I can't seem to find another graph I saw where standing wasn't much better than sitting, but it was indeed better. Just not like a night and day type of thing. But indeed it is better.
posted by cashman at 7:48 AM on May 26, 2011

I'm sceptical of a one-size-fits-all claim that standing is better than sitting. I've had RSI-type issues one and off for years, have seen several PTs and other practitioners who specialise in office ergonomics, and no-one has ever suggested I get a standing desk. Nor has a yoga ball ever been suggested. Of course some specific complaints might well benefit from these approaches, but you don't mention any ailment.

As I understand it, a *good* chair will support your back and help reduce the upper body strain caused by long hours of typing/mousing.

And as others have said, standing and using a laptop will almost certainly be ergonomically unhealthy. Far better to do a simple ergonomic check of your own workstation and posture - I'm sure they can be found online, and would include things like: feet position on floor/footrest; position of keyboard & screen; chair lumbar.

IANAD but from my experience, these are the sorts of things that would be helpful to most people wanting to avoid developing a problem:

- taking breaks, both frequent micro-breaks of a few seconds every few minutes, and longer breaks every hour or so. If you become too absorbed in your work to remember this, try a programme such as RSIGuard.
- exercise, of course. I found backstroke and pilates helpful but surely any exercise is good.
- regularly check your posture and workstation adjustment
- get the best chair you can; but bear in mind that not all fancy office chairs (eg Aerons) are necessarily great for long, intense hours at the computer. A well-adjusted cheap office chair with a high back a good start.
- avoid using the laptop a lot; full-size keyboard etc tends to be better
posted by 8k at 8:27 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

As I understand it, a *good* chair will support your back and help reduce the upper body strain caused by long hours of typing/mousing.

This would fall under the "weakening the weak" approach.
posted by rr at 9:41 AM on May 26, 2011

I had a lot of pain in my lower back and legs which I attributed to sitting all day at work. I asked my employer for an adjustable height desk and they provided me with an Ergotron wall mount for my monitor and keyboard. Now I can easily go back and forth between sitting and standing (I can't stand for long). I had substantial improvement in my pain within a few days and the pain was essentially all gone in a few weeks.
posted by neuron at 12:52 PM on May 26, 2011

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