Stand Up for a Healthier Workplace

Standing improves brain function and muscle activation, and burns 50 or more calories per hour, thus making the body more active.

new wellness meme intones, “Sitting is the new smoking,” promoting obesity, hypertension, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis. This muscle inactivity contributes to a decrease in brain stimulation, blood sugar regulation (diabetes) and poor posture, causing imbalances with tight and weak muscles.

The average American spends eight hours a day at work, and that means sitting down. Endocrinologist James Levine has studied the benefits of standing workstations, and research indicates that standing improves brain function and muscle activation, and burns 50 or more calories per hour, thus making the body more active.

However, if not done without the proper alignment, standing can do more harm than good, causing foot, knee, back, and neck strains and pain. Any practice of sitting or standing for long periods of time without actively moving in multiple directions can be damaging. Sound standing workstation practices begin with a mat, proper footwear and following guidelines found at In a computer workstation, elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle and close to the body, with wrists straight, eye level at the top of monitor at a 20-degree tilt and 15 to 30 inches away.

Transition into standing 15 minutes every hour, then try 30, and then one hour each day over a week or two without hunching or slouching to avoid leg and foot fatigue or any neck, back or joint pain. Keep the feet staggered and balanced and switch frequently. Do not lock out the knees or hyperextend the joints and keep proper pelvis and spine alignment. Be careful about standing with a hip hiked to one side or putting weight on one leg for long periods of time. Proper standing posture is based on proper core engagement, from the inner arches of the feet spiraling up all the way to the skull. Strengthening the stabilizing muscles of the core by doing plank exercises, for example, will help aid in the transition to standing.

Whether we choose to sit, stand or a combination of both, there are great ways to counter the effects of the workday with easy at-home or in-office exercises. Rather than making all our activity one-dimensional, such as running, biking or walking, try yoga and other functional activities that make us move in ways to challenge certain muscles and create a more balanced body, free from pain and injury.

For some people, just one hour of standing, even split up over the entire day, can make a huge difference. If standing or sitting longer than one hour at a time, or if a standing station is not feasible, take a one-to-two-minute walking or stretching break every hour—twist, bend, rotate and move the body in multiple directions—and try pacing while talking on the phone or have a walking meeting instead of staying seated. These are all brief, convenient ways to incorporate a little movement that makes a big difference in how we feel, which will increase productivity.


Nicole Larson, a health fitness specialist at Fit2U Training, holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine and National Strength and Conditioning Association. Contact her at 210-602-2061 or

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