How to Use a Height Adjustable Desk to Improve Posture
Standing desks offer countless benefits for our health and wellbeing, from increasing energy levels and boosting circulation to preventing obesity by burning more calories throughout the day. But one of the key benefits to this way of working is the benefits it offers to your posture.
Striking the right balance between sitting and standing is critical to keep your body healthy – it’s been shown that sitting for long periods can increase your risk of chronic diseases like heart issues and diabetes but standing for too long can also lead to pain in the joints, knees and back. Over the course of the workday, you should be aiming to stand between 30 to 45 minutes every hour to stay productive, active and healthy.
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Why ergonomics improve your health
Ergonomics in the workplace is all about improving the efficiency of your work environment to avoid chronic health issues and discomfort. By adjusting your office ergonomics, you can stay healthy and productive. Poor posture can lead or exacerbate a range of health issues, by putting additional stress on joints and muscles throughout the body. It can lead to musculoskeletal disorders which impact muscles, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons, and nerves. It also affects your circulation and blood pressure, digestive issues, headaches and migraines, diminished lung function from slouching and fatigue.
But one of the most common problems that many office workers experience is back, neck and shoulder pain. Sitting slouched for too long working at your computer or laptop can result in poor posture, throwing your spine out of alignment and resulting in severe muscle pain in your back and neck. It can also be a contributor to rotator cuff pain in your shoulders and lower back pain caused by slouching. Setting your desk up to be ergonomically correct alleviates the risk of this developing, and a sit-stand desk is the ideal tool for this.
Maintaining the right posture while standing
When it comes to the right posture standing desk ergonomics are critical to prevent fatigue, and muscle and joint stiffness. You want to keep your neck tall, shoulders relaxed and arms at the right angle to avoid joint and neck pain.
Your standing desk posture should be relaxed without you needing to slouch or lean backwards. Your hands should be able to rest directly over the keyboard without you needing to lean forwards, and your wrists should be parallel to the desktop. To keep your posture in check when you’re using a height adjustable desk, follow these tips.
Switch between sitting and standing
The most important thing to remember is not to stand too long, especially in the first few weeks of using a sit stand desk – you don’t want to stay in a static position for more than 90 minutes in one go. Moving between sitting and standing is the best balance for your body, giving your muscles and joints a break when they need it, and energising your body when fatigue starts to set in.
Studies have found that there’s a strong connection between lower back pain and standing for too long, so to avoid that and keep your posture in check, you should set your desk up ergonomically for both sitting and standing, so you can move between the two every 30 minutes comfortably.
The correct desk height and computer screen positioning for your posture varies depending on the individual, as it depends on your height. However, you should ensure that your standing desk is set at elbow height, so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
You also want your computer screen to be between 2”—28” from your face, with the top of the screen at eye level and the screen tilted upwards at an angle of 10-20 degrees. This ensures you don’t need to strain to see the screen and your neck is kept straight.
Learning how to sit and stand properly might take some getting used to, but over time, your body will learn and adapt. When standing, try to hold your core tight and pull your shoulders back, but keep your back relaxed – holding a military upright position all day is just as uncomfortable as slouching. Likewise, when you’re sitting, rest your feet on the floor or on a footrest and don’t cross your legs. There should be a gap behind your knees from the chair and your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.
Use an anti-fatigue mate
Anti-fatigue mats are great for keeping the ground underneath your feet soft and flexible so you’re not standing on hard ground for too long. They work by encouraging blood flow and circulation via small movements in the leg muscles. This prevents your legs from becoming stiff and heavy, and prevents lower back pain.
Hold your shoulders properly
The trouble with using a conventional, static desk is that it forces us to hunch our backs and slouch. When you’re standing at a height adjustable desk, you have the opportunity to counteract this position and stand up straight. However, many people keep their back straight without thinking about the position their shoulders are in. It’s important that you keep your shoulders back to prevent upper back pain.
It helps to perform shoulder rolls back and then forwards from time to time, and each time you notice that your shoulders have slumped forwards, pull them back. Over time, this will become a natural position and you’ll notice your posture improve and your back pain diminish.
You don’t need to stand rigid all day – moving is better for your back and your posture. And while it may seem counterproductive, the opposite is true. When standing, try to do calf raises, squats and twists to keep your back, leg and core muscles engaged and supple.
When you’re sitting down, make sure you have lumbar support – either with an ergonomic chair or with a lumbar support pad added to your existing chair – so that you keep your back straight. Slouching puts added pressure on your spine and neck, which causes discomfort and over time, will lead to severe posture problems.
Try to imagine that there’s an invisible cord pulling you up from the centre of your head, and when you catch yourself slouching, reposition yourself to sit up straight. Over time, it will train the muscles in your core and back to be stronger and more supportive.
Use arm supports
Arm supports are soft padded areas which attach to your desk and are in place to reduce pressure on your wrists when you’re typing or using the computer mouse. They can significantly reduce the risk of developing neck and shoulder pain, and are particularly beneficial on the side of your dominant hand to relieve pressure and strain on this area of your body.
Take plenty of breaks
It might be tempting to go all in and stand for long periods to maximise the use of your sit stand desk. However, this has the opposite effect and simply replaces one set of problems with another as far as your body is concerned. Standing at your desk may be better than sitting all day, but it’s still important to take plenty of breaks and stretch your body so you don’t wind up with aches and pains at the end of the workday.
For some people, taking breaks comes naturally, while others may need a nudge when it’s time to step away from the desk. It can help to set up a timer on your phone or use a Pomodoro timer on your computer at 30 minute increments so that you’re reminded to stretch your legs and give your eyes a break from the screen. Stretching really helps to keep your circulation flowing and your muscles supple, which prevents back pain over time.
Customise as you go
Everyone is different, so it’s important to customise your workstation for your own comfort. You want to adjust your desk based on your height and the equipment you’re using, but that’s the beauty of a height adjustable desk. It can be tailored to your body to create the perfect work environment that will enable you to be more productive and energised.
The tips in this article are just the foundation. Try making minor tweaks until you feel that you’re completely comfortable and that your desk height is suitable for you. If you feel any discomfort when using your desk, adjust the height or the length of time you’re sitting and standing for until you reach a balance that works for you.
A sit-stand desk can be great for your posture and your overall health, but you need to know how to use one correctly to avoid any discomfort. To maximise the benefits and minimise the risks that come with sitting or standing for too long, you want to ensure that your desk is set up ergonomically so you’re not putting too much stress on your back, neck and joints.