Standing Desk Exercise Rx
Work Station Transition Training
As a physical therapist making his living taking care of people with pain problems and physical limitations caused by prolonged sitting, I am an avid promoter of standing desks. Over the last five years, the prices of standing desk products have come down and the variety has increased. Manufacturers now permit a 30 day “no risk” trial. Try a standing desk for thirty days and then ship it back if it does not meet your needs. I encourage anyone who must sit for more than five hours a day to convert some of those sitting hours to a stand up desk. Employers are now aware of the benefit of standing desks and actively encouraging their use. It can take some time to become accustomed to working at a standing desk. I have three training tools that can help make working at a standing desk easier. Read this article and watch the video for a demonstration of how to use each product.
Foot Care With a Spiky Ball
The bottom of the foot is a busy intersection of muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. Heel and plantar pain are common reasons we see patients in the physical therapy clinic. Foot pain problems can take months to fully recover. A little proactive soft tissue treatment will bulletproof the feet from overuse injury and pain. A spiky ball is a small sphere with fairly aggressive projections. Take off your shoes and give your peds a little love by rolling the bottom of your foot over a spiky ball. Spiky balls come in various sizes and resistances. I have found the smaller (2 ½ – 3 inch) and firmer models work the best for my foot. Most people report that it “hurts good” and often get one for work and one for the home office. Most spiky balls cost around seven dollars.
Posture Correction With Resistance Bands
If you have been a long-term seated data input warrior, you have probably been infected with the i-hunch virus. As we get older, the muscles that hold the thoracic region tall and pull the shoulder blades back tend to get weaker at a faster rate than other muscles. Prolonged standing is going to be challenging without some remedial rebooting of the software that holds you tight and tall. I keep a ¼ inch superband (nine dollars from performbetter.com) at my desk and perform two upper body postural strengthening exercises. Posture restoration takes some time so work on these drills every day for at least three months.
Band Pull Aparts
Choose a resistance band that allows you to perform a complete set without reaching failure. The force produced by the band becomes greater as you travel through the movement so avoid a band with a strong resistance. The tempo of the movement should stay smooth and steady.
Stand tall with the chest proud and the head pulled back. Do not arch the upper back. Tighten the abdominal muscle and keep the front of the rib cage down. Hold the elbows fully extended and the wrist in neutral. You can use either a palms up or a palms down arm position. Individuals with some shoulder wear and tear may feel better with a palms up position. Hold the arms up to 85 degree shoulder flexion and start with a low level of tension on the band. Concentrate your efforts on the muscles between your shoulder blades as you pull the band apart and bring the hands out to the side. Let the band stretch across the chest and pull the hands behind the body. Tempo: Two counts- pull the band apart. Two counts- hold at end range. Two counts- return to the starting position. Repetitions: 10 – 20 repetitions.
Postural Band Aid
One of the most convenient and easy to perform postural correction activities is an exercise I call the postural band aid. Take a short length of therapy resistance band and stand up. Assume a tall posture with a proud chest and the head pulled back. Hold one side of the band in each hand with the palms up. Keep the elbows by the side and bent to 90 degrees. Pull the band apart so that your arms form a letter W with your arms and body. You should feel a tightening of the muscle between your shoulder blades. Hold the band apart for three counts and then slowly release back to the starting position. Perform ten repetitions.
Dynamic Core Stability With Dynamax Medicine Ball
Physical therapy patients and fitness clients often complain of lower back fatigue when using a standing desk. Solve this problem with some dynamic stabilization training. Place a Dynamax medicine ball or an under inflated basketball under the desk and take turns elevating one leg up onto the ball. The round ball creates a degree of instability that kicks in the stabilizers of the pelvic girdle and lower back. Changing position and relieving stress on the joints in the pelvic girdle and lumbar spine can help abolish symptoms of fatigue. It is one of the reasons your local saloon has a place to rest your foot when you belly up to the bar. The majority of standing desk users report an improvement in symptoms using this simple alteration in stance.
Watch the video here
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Standing desks are great for posture and health, but many people have difficulty when they first start using them. In this issue, Mike O’Hara, PT gives exercises that can help you stand for longer periods of time. Watch the video for instruction on these exercises. In his article, “The Biomechanics We All Need To Know, Mike agrees with the advice given by Stuart McGill. Be sure to read about Fenton Fitness Member Jan Pilar and her success with her program.
I have known Tracy for at least seven years. She is an active mother of three children and works full time as an accountant. Over a four-year span, Tracy was a patient in our physical therapy clinic three times for the same problem of leg and lower back pain. Tracy always recovered and was able to return to work but her last bout of pain lasted three months. I ran into Tracy at a restaurant recently. She stated that she was ashamed to admit it, but after four years of listening to me preach about the benefits of a standing work station, she finally got out of the chair and started working at a stand up desk. This is her standing desk story.
Her legs “felt tired” for the initial eight weeks and she went back and forth between standing and an office chair. Tracy kept performing her hip mobility exercises and lumbar stability drills and gradually became more accustom to her new workstation. She has been using the standing desk for three years, and in that time, she has not been bothered by any back or leg pain. An additional benefit has been an eight-pound weight loss and “surprisingly” her “sinus headaches” have resolved. Tracy told me she sits for at most three hours of a workday and could not imagine going back to a seated workstation. Tracy stated that three of her coworkers have made the standing desk transition and all report similar results.
Prolonged sitting creates multiple postural pain problems. Postural Stress Disorder (PSD) is the new term given to the pain created by seated office work. In our physical therapy clinics, we are seeing more and more patients with face, head, neck, shoulder, back, and hip pain associated with prolonged sitting.
We are de-evolving into a nation of sitters. Between internet, television, driving, and computer work, it is not uncommon for many of my physical therapy patients and fitness clients to sit for ten hours a day. Unfortunately, you cannot train away the bad effects of prolonged sitting with a 45 minute session of exercise.
While it takes some effort, and a little office remodeling, the benefits of using a standing workstation cannot be ignored. I was happy to hear Tracy’s story and recognize her as one of my reluctant, but now pain-free converts. If you have an occupation that places you in front of a computer, you should invest in a stand up style workstation that allows you to be upright for most of the day. Many large corporations have recognized the benefit and have made the switch to standing workstations. Standing desks are now more affordable and several of my converts have one at work and one at home.
-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
I have been a standing desk evangelist for the last six years.I have converted hundreds of seated apostates to the virtues of the standing workstation. Physical therapy patients and fitness clients testify to the resolution of pain, restoration of function and a new belief in all things movement. Indeed my time on this earth will have been well spent if I can just get more people standing during their workday.
If you have a boss that controls expenditures for office equipment, he or she should read Daniel Akst June 2, 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal, “Want To Get More Done at the Office? Just Stand Up.” The author discusses recent research from Texas A & M on the use of standing desks in the work place. The big take away is that the subjects in this fairly large and long-term study were 46% more productive than their seated workmates.