Before I turned 30 years old, I never had to worry about my back – it served me well, no matter how many hours I spent sitting at my desk, reading, writing, or watching Youtube videos.
After sitting for more than 16 hours a day for about a month or two in 2017 however, my back started aching. At first it was a light ache – you know, the harmless kind that went away when you got up in the morning. Then it became more severe, and a good night’s sleep could no longer cure it. Then it got to the point when the ache was very bad, 24/7 and hours of lying down during the day and night didn’t alleviate, not to mention resolve it.
I was really frustrated – I always sat for extended periods and never had any back issues to deal with. Having this really painful ache at the back all the time was physically and mentally disturbing. I googled “back pain” and was not really assured by some of the more sinister causes of back pain that came up. (Hint: cancer was one of them) I wanted to see a doctor; however, I was planning to go to Seattle and Vancouver so I decided to see one when I got back from the trip.
In Seattle I went to Discovery Park and in Vancouver the Botanical Gardens. I walked around a lot. I certainly did not have any chance to sit down for 16 hours at a stretch. By the end of my two week trip, my backache had disappeared. It’s like magic!
I was relieved to say the least. Now I knew the cause for my backache – excessive sitting! It’s not like I didn’t exercise. I did my three-times-a-week walking but apparently it was not enough to overcome the 16 hours of sitting. I have to say that I learnt my lesson and made sure I did not sit for extended periods in front of my computer anymore. And the backache did not come back again.
I’m really glad for the wake up call that the backache gave me. Around the time I was getting the backache, I was also getting moody, lethargic, and unable to focus. Looking back, I’m thankful that the backache gave me a chance to put my health on top priority, ahead of everything else including work. And when I did that, surprisingly, I actually became more focused and more productive at work as well. So you can have both health and work, if you decide to.
The human body is built to move. Although there are people who say that our ancestors, being hunter-gatherers, only had to spend 14 hours a week looking for food, and could take the rest of the week to laze around and enjoy themselves, I’m sure they did not sit still in a hunched position for 10 hours at a stretch! Excessive long sitting time in front of the laptop or TV, when only the fingers are getting some form of exercise – in the form of typing or fishing for potato chips out of a bag – is something that only we in the digital age do. Sitting for long periods of time wrecks your posture, you slouch (at least I do) and this puts enormous strain on your back and spine.
Agreed, exercise is important and no amount of standing up and fidgeting can replace that. However, as modern humans who already have to deal with a lot of work, less movement, I’m not going to say no to sit-stand desks that give me an option of sitting or standing up as I feel the need to.
For all I’m concerned with, in addition to preventing back ache, standing up to work keeps me from falling asleep after a heavy lunch. I am much less lethargic, and can focus better and become more productive instead of zoning out after a heavy dose of carbohydrate. The scientists attribute it to more effective sugar control.
Also, standing to work actually makes me more mobile. I shift my weight between the left and right foot, I twist my body around, I stretch to the left and to the right so much more often, and I find it much easier to decide to walk to get some water or talk to a colleague when I’m standing up than when I’m sitting to work. I don’t know what’s the thing with sitting, but I sometimes literally feel glued to the chair and would postpone getting up to refill my cup even if I want to. It just seems to take more effort.
When I sit after standing for a while, I also find it easier to keep my posture correct than when I’m sitting down all the time. Because I can’t slouch when standing, when I sit down, the right posture seems to just carry over naturally. This compared to times in the past when I always had to remind myself to keep a right posture and not to slouch when sitting for extended periods. I can assure you I failed miserably even though I had a sticky note pasted in front of me saying “right posture is important!!”
Whatever the experts say, I feel that alternating between standing and sitting to work has really made a difference for me. I typically spend about 2 hours standing in the morning and 2 hours standing right after lunch, with the rest of the time sitting down. Towards the end of the day, I tend to sit down more, but I switch to standing if I start to feel like I have sat for too long.
As the prices of standing desks have dropped, you can buy one for less than $200. Or you can just make your own standing desk by stacking some kind of platform plus a few books on your table. Whether you buy ready made ones, or DIY, you should give standing desks a try, just in case it is able to help you, as it has helped many other people like myself.
Smart desk, for brilliant prople. Keep fit while getting important work done. All in one desk.