20 Apr The Perfect Working Desk Posture
The perfect working desk posture is something that every worker in the world is trying to obtain. But what is it, exactly? Is it the classic seated position with hips, knees, and elbows all bent to a perfect 90 degrees? Or is it converting your desk to a standing work station, because standing has just got to be better than sitting, right? There is a growing sentiment amongst workers and non-workers alike that the “perfect posture” must be obtained to eliminate pain and discomfort. Furthermore, the phrase that “sitting is the new smoking” promoted by media outlets and fear-based advertising has effectively scared people from assuming comfortable sitting positions and popularized the use of standing work stations. We’re going to put that notion that sitting is the new smoking to rest and show you what the actual perfect working desk posture looks like!
Sitting Is NOT The New Smoking
Demonizing sitting as the new smoking would be completely incorrect. It’s like saying that laying down is bad for you! These notions have come from well-meaning research publications, like this meta-analysis by Rezende et al 2014, that found that sedentary behaviors are associated with an increased risk of mortality causing diseases like diabetes. The key point in their conclusion is that sedentary behavior was associated with this risk – not necessarily sitting. Sedentary behavior could be sitting in the perfect working desk posture for 8 hours a day, without moving at all in front of a computer screen; however, it’s important to differentiate the term sitting and sedentary, as they are not the same.
Working for an entire day in a seated position, but taking constant movement breaks, is enough to reverse the potentially harmful physiological effects of sedentary behavior. In a 2014 study from Dempsey et al, they found that prolonged sitting results in the elevation of blood pressure in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. However, when they interrupted this prolonged sitting every 30 minutes with 3 minutes of light resistance exercise, they found that it resulted in a decrease in elevated blood pressure! Thus, taking breaks from sitting effectively breaks up sedentary behaviors!
READ: Improve Postural Pain
Sit To Stand Desks Work, But How?
Sit to stand desks have been all the rage lately in the workplace to combat the “pandemic of sitting.” But what is it, exactly, that makes them so beneficial? Is it just the fact that they allow you to stand? Just as we discussed that sitting all day, even the perfect working desk posture, counts as sedentary behavior…so does standing for 8 hours a day! A 2018 study by Baker et al suggested that prolonged standing may be associated with venous insufficiency, atherosclerotic progression, as well as back and lower limb discomfort. Furthermore, that reported that bouts > 2 hours of uninterrupted standing resulted in decreased cognition. I don’t think these findings are all that alarming, considering that being on your feet all day would surely cause your feet to be a little sore!
Like with everything else regarding the human body, optimal dosing is key. Too much of anything, even something good, could be a bad thing!
Sit to stand desks have been shown to be effective in decreasing discomfort in office workers not because they just simply allow you to stand, but because they encourage movement. When you’re standing, you naturally shift your weight from one leg to the other. I personally like to use a stool under my sit to stand desk to place my foot upon. This not only allows me to shift weight from one leg to the other but also encourages movement in my hips to flex and the associated posterior pelvic tilt and slight lumbar flexion that comes with that movement!
Sit to stand desks, like the SmartDesk2 from Autonomous AI that I have, not only gives me more movement options in a standing position but also allows me to constantly switch between a sitting and standing position throughout my workday. And when I’m sitting OR standing, I will let my body go into whatever posture or position it feels like! That could be your classic “bad posture” or your “perfect posture”, it doesn’t matter as the perfect working desk posture is the one that keeps you moving!
Posture [P]Rehab Program
The Posture [P]Rehab Program is the ultimate starter resource for any and all desk workers and for those looking to improve their posture. Many around the world are moving less and are sitting way more than ever before, NOW is a great opportunity to reap the benefits of this program. Find out more HERE.
Movement Exercise Breaks
Seated Cat Cow
Sample [P]Rehab Exercise Library Video
HOW: Get set up seated upright with your hands supported on your thighs. Begin the exercise by rounding your upper body and head/neck forward, letting your spine bend forward as your hands slide down your thighs. Reverse the motion to sit upright nice and tall and let your back/spine arch and extend. Repeat
FEEL: This should feel like a global stretch to your upper/lower and mid back, depending how far you move. As you round, you should feel a stretch in your back, as you arch and squeeze your shoulder blades back, you may feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. This should feel like a gentle motion that you’re in control of.
COMPENSATION: Limit movement to your upper body, keep your lower body still.
Seated Thoracic Spine Rotations
HOW: Stabilize your arm on the inside of one leg and rotate open towards the opposite side as far as you can.
Dynamic Hip Flexor Stretch
Sample [P]Rehab Exercise Library Video
HOW: Get set-up standing with a box or object in front of you that you can put one foot up on. The side that remains down on the ground is the one getting the stretch. Put one foot up, perform a posterior pelvic tilt, and shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch. Hold that position for a moment, back out of it and then repeat to make it dynamic
FEEL: You will feel a stretch in front of your hip that you are stretching
COMPENSATION: It is important to get into the correct position at first by shifting your weight forward while maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt and squeezing your glute on the same side. See video for tips
Your best working desk posture is your next posture, so keep moving!!
When it comes to mid-back and scapular pain, nothing beats a Mid Back [P]Rehab program with tons of thoracic spine mobility and scapular stability work. Mid back pain can be caused by a variety of structures in the mid-back itself like the thoracic spine, ribs, or trigger points in the upper back muscles. Furthermore, the pain could even originate from other regions, not in the mid-back like the neck or shoulders. That’s a lot of potential pain generators and triggers! Making matters even more complicated is that it’s oftentimes difficult to recreate a “trigger”. This program is an 8-week program designed to minimize pain and optimize your neck and mid-back health. We make it easy and teach you how to self [P]Rehab your neck and mid-back and keep them healthy for anything life throws at you through detailed exercise programming and our signature resource videos.
- Baker, Richelle, et al. “A Detailed Description of the Short-Term Musculoskeletal and Cognitive Effects of Prolonged Standing for Office Computer Work.” Ergonomics, vol. 61, no. 7, 2018, pp. 877–890., doi:10.1080/00140139.2017.1420825.
- Chambers, April J., et al. “The Effect of Sit-Stand Desks on Office Worker Behavioral and Health Outcomes: A Scoping Review.” Applied Ergonomics, vol. 78, 2019, pp. 37–53., doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2019.01.015.
- Dempsey, Paddy C., et al. “Interrupting Prolonged Sitting with Brief Bouts of Light Walking or Simple Resistance Activities Reduces Resting Blood Pressure and Plasma Noradrenaline in Type 2 Diabetes.” Journal of Hypertension, vol. 34, no. 12, 2016, pp. 2376–2382., doi:10.1097/hjh.0000000000001101.
- Mula, Allison. “Ergonomics and the Standing Desk.” Work, 2018, pp. 1–4., doi:10.3233/wor-2736.
- Rezende, Leandro Fornias Machado De, et al. “Sedentary Behavior and Health Outcomes: An Overview of Systematic Reviews.” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 8, 2014, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105620.