White House requests $700k for standing desks

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America: Stand Beside Her and Guide Her
If the recent White House requisition for standing desks proves anything, it’s that the quest for a healthier lifestyle is not divided along partisan lines. Prominent public figures known to use standing desks include Donald Rumsfeld, Winston Churchill, Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr., and Benjamin Franklin. Notable writers who stood include Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Predictably, the US government support of sit-stand desks has come in the form of modeling best practices rather than by mandate by law. Our safety standards for office workers tend to be conservative when compared to the European Union, which considers height adjustable standing desks an ergonomic necessity.

The Thousand Dollar Toilet Seat
It should come as no surprise that some citizens are crying out that the expense is too great and the money better spent on other necessities. An outlay of $700,000 over 5 years does sound excessive; even when broken down over 60 months it comes to $11,666.666, which apart from anything else is not an auspicious series of digits.

How will government workers benefit from this expenditure? Is the standing desk just another symptom of government running off with our collective check book? Are we figuratively flushing good money after bad? I don’t think so. Several independent researchers have found that an effective sit-stand desk such as Ergotron’s WorkFit line can reduce sedentary time by 50% per day among average knowledge workers. Given the documented harmful effects of sitting too much, this translates as a reduced risk for muscular skeletal and cardio metabolic risks for employees.

Fig. 1 Harmful effects of sitting

BodyDiseases
Disclaimer: Ergotron devices are not intended to cure, treat, mitigate or prevent any disease.

Let Freedom Ring
While reducing risks associated with sedentary time promotes health and wellbeing, there is a less concrete benefit that was first verified in the land of our forefathers: Great Britain. The Whitehall study was originally designed to prove that people in higher levels of management were more stressed than those they managed. As it turns out, the lower you are on the company ladder, the more stress you’re liable to experience.

What accounts for fewer health concerns among executives? One explanation is autonomy. People who have no choice in the tasks they do, and when they do them, suffer from a lack of decision latitude that can severely limit their performance and productivity.

On the other hand, people in offices who were given sit-stand desks were able to exercise some control over the way they worked with the simple choice to change postures at will. It came as some surprise to researchers that something as simple as this could elevate mood, energy and concentration!

Crown Thy Good With Brotherhood
With evidence-based data showing adjustable standing desks can help mitigate sitting-related diseases AND enhance performance and productivity, the American government, indeed any government, is exactly the place where you want this investment made. Can’t you just picture it? A sit-stand attachment on the President’s desk in the Oval Office? History in the making…

carrie s_a-hr
Carrie Schmitz, Sr. Manager of Ergonomic & Wellness Research at Ergotron (@giveafig)

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The importance of pilot studies in research, part 2

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See part 1 here

When Ergotron chose to support the ATTAIN pilot study about the impact of using LearnFit adjustable standing desks in a computer lab for special needs students, we didn’t know what to expect. Would we get clear results? Would they be transfer to other populations? And mostly, would they be dismissed because of the small sample size?

For this Sit-Stand Action Research Project, researchers randomly assigned 13 ATTAIN Technology Lab students to intervention and comparison groups or a 40-day period. The intervention group received sit‐to‐stand units which enabled them to easily alternate between sitting and standing. Students were encouraged to stand for at least five minutes every 30 minutes, but could opt to stand longer. The comparison group of two students continued to work at traditional sit-only desks.

Here’s what the research discovered:
> Students in the intervention group showed notable improvement in their quality of work over the course of the project, unlike the comparison group.
> Additionally, their behavior improved over the course of the project. (For the comparison group, behavior either remained the same or worsened.)

My primary concern was that the students’ learning challenges were far too variable to provide clear results. I was uncertain that the students, even with guidance from their instructors, would be able to maintain a sit-stand cycle sufficient to impact behavior and performance. My fears were unfounded.

I was further encouraged when the study was published in 2014 by the American College of Sports Medicine in their HEALTH & FITNESS JOURNAL, VOL. 19/ NO. 1.

In that article, Sit, Stand, Learn Using Workplace Wellness Sit-Stand Results to Improve Student Behavior and Learning the authors Nicolaas P. Pronk, PhD, and Abigail S. Katz, PhD, identified prolonged sitting time as a risk factor for various negative health outcomes including metabolic syndrome and obesity. They propose breaking up extended periods of sitting with intermittent standing as a promising solution and point to an emerging body of research suggesting that doing so improves emotional health, such as mood, as well.

This simple pilot study elegantly demonstrates that our bodies and minds are not separate entities that function independently of each other — something we’ll examine more closely in a later post.

Knowing that “sitting disease” is a growing public health issue, Ergotron has supported independent researchers around the world. They represent many disciplines, from ergonomics to epidemiology, sports medicine to psychology and all are united in a single goal: to reduce the harmful effects of sedentary behavior and by improving health, to optimize performance. In the last five years Ergotron has supported this research with donations of sit-stand desks.

In every one of those studies, breaking up sitting time has proven to be beneficial in every one of the completed sit-stand studies. How is that possible?

In part 3 of this series, I will detail how Ergotron’s research delves into sedentary living and its effect on human health and performance.

carrie s_a-hr

– Carrie Schmitz, Sr. Manager of Ergonomic & Wellness Research at Ergotron (@giveafig)

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Healthy workplace? ADA recognizes you!

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Does your company, non-profit, or community organization inspire and champion a culture of wellness? If yes, the American Diabetes Association wants to know about it!

The ADA will recognize your organization’s efforts to engage employees or members in healthy living with its new workplace Health Champion Designation. Think of it as a wellness “seal of approval,” awarded for meeting certain criteria in nutrition, weight management, physical activity, and wellbeing.

The Health Champion Designation application is now open and will remain open until October 31, 2015.

Learn more

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How sitting all day is like living in space

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In January 2014, the New York Times published a spectacular article about the effect space has on human bodies, aptly titled “Beings Not Made for Space”. The opening sentence was a stunner: “In space, heads swell.” Apparently these kinds of transformations don’t necessarily stop once astronauts return to Earth. Eyeballs can become slightly squashed, sleep and eating can become difficult, and radiation may damage vital organs.

You’re probably wondering what gravity and astronauts have to do with sitting down all day. As it turns out, quite a lot. The way space affects astronauts is hugely indicative of why a sedentary lifestyle is so damaging to your health. The science seems to show us:

Our bodies are designed to work against gravity every moment of the day. Walking, sitting, sleeping, standing, running… at all times, gravity is pressing its forces against our bodies, making our muscles and our bones strong. We are designed to move: nearly 60% of our skeletal muscles are dedicated to opposing gravity.

So when gravity is removed from the equation, our bodies change. We float effortlessly and move with the tiniest of motions, leaving our muscles and bones useless, and eventually leading to frailty. The same effect happens in bedridden and immobile persons; without gravity weighing on their bodies, their bones weaken and they quickly become unhealthy.

Likewise, when astronauts spend a significant amount of time in space, their bodies change. Astronauts have been known to grow up to 3% taller while in space because without gravity, the spine is free to lengthen. Muscle mass and bone density is lost in space because without gravity, there’s no force insisting they remain strong. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station exercise at least two hours a day to maintain their normal body composition. Luckily, if their health does happen to deteriorate in space, it’s restored when they return to an active lifestyle on Earth.

Which is good news for those living a sedentary life, too; adopting an active lifestyle will return the body to normal. As Joan Vernikos, Ph.D. and former Director of NASA’s Life Scientist Division, says in her book Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: “The more your body is working against gravity, the better your chances of staying in good health.”

Vernikos recommends moving from a sitting position to standing position as frequently as possible.“Standing up often is what matters,” she writes, “not how long you remain standing.” Every time you stand up, nearly every nerve in your body is stimulated. Standing regulates the body’s blood pressure and blood volume, but the real value is in stimulating your entire body.

For example, if you stand once and stay standing for an hour, then you’ve only stimulated your body once that hour. But, if you stand up five times in one hour, you’ve stimulated your body five different times. Vernikos goes so far as to suggest changing positions every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day.

That number of sit-to-stand transitions may seem a bit on the excessive side, but the key takeaway here is to move around as much as possible during the day. Human bodies weren’t designed to sit all day long; modern life has simply evolved in a way that now, many of us do. In reality, we were designed to walk, to run, to hunt, to move.

Gravity is good; let it do its job. Keep moving, and stay healthy.

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Q&A: How much should I stand?   

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“Obviously there should be a slow ramp up from 100% sitting to a ratio between sitting and standing. What is the optimal ratio? How long should the ramp up be (days, weeks, months)?” ~ Maurico C. 

 

 

Great question, Maurico, and an important one. No one has come up with the hard and fast rule yet, but many of the world’s leading researchers are weighing into the debate. From our perspective, part of this answer depends on how comfortable you are making changes and how hunched and crunched from prolonged sitting you are right now.

Good rule of thumb?

Change postures every 30 minutes. This seems to be an optimal length of time to stand before your body becomes too static, or to sit before your body overloads. This doesn’t work for everyone and some of it depends on the approach you are taking to standing and moving more in the first place. A first step might be to set some goals. If you did the calculations, you may discover you are sitting more than 14 hours during your day. It is an unrealistic goal to cut that number in half in the first week. It is more realistic to start sitting one hour less per day. This gives you some choice about where you begin and helps you achieve success over time as well.

Break up that sedentary slump.

Focus on the most sedentary times of your day. If you are tuning into your internal radio station, more than likely you’ve been hearing some grumbling from that hour of the show…Man, my back feels stiff right now…or…wait a minute, where did that pain come from?  If you haven’t been hearing anything, turn the volume up. Your body will tell you how much it can handle. Do you feel achy or fatigued? Is there any pain? Is it telling you that you feel good, maybe even energized and focused when standing? These are your clues about when to change your position.

You may experience some discomfort at the beginning when switching to sit-stand computing. Maybe after 10 minutes of standing, maybe after an hour. The key is to listen to the message and change postures when you hear it. You will hear it, whether seated or standing. Your body is that good.

One person’s experience – yours may be similar.

In the beginning, I could only stand for about 15 minute increments. I began to notice when I started feeling uncomfortable sitting, and then I would stand for a while. I did this for about a month. As I began to stand for longer periods, I started to do the same thing when I was standing. Were my legs feeling fatigued? Was I shifting around more? Feeling distracted? That was my sign it was time to sit for a while.”  ~ Rose J.

It will be different for everybody, and every body. Of course, consult a doctor if you have other health issues, too. It is important to take a safe approach to any physical change you make.

How long is it going to take to “feel” right?

It might happen as quick as a week, or it might take a few months. We have seen it vary a hundred different ways. The important thing is to maintain healthy posture and follow these sit-stand tips to help make the transition. Don’t give up if you don’t feel terrific right from the start. Over time you will.

In other words, be creative. Decide which activities you prefer doing sitting versus standing. Talking on the phone? Stand up. Write out a proposal? Sit down. Proof reading? Stand up. Filing? Stand up. You decide.

One note for anyone creating a standing only desk set up…be sure to build in rest periods, either by adding a tall stool to your workstation so you can sit periodically, or by exploring other chances to sit and rest, like in meetings or at lunch.

It is a balance that we are trying to reach. A balance personal to our workflow and how our body responds.

Thanks for the question, Mauricio! Anyone else? What’s on your mind?

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Save an intern. Get a standing desk.

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It looks like the secret is out: standing desks make you healthier, happier, and more productive. Sounds pretty great, right? The only problem is if you don’t have one.

While there are many ways to“hack” your regular desk into a standing one, none are better than this guy’s attempt. Watch how he thought way outside the box to fashion his very own standing desk.
Watch this video for a laugh, then read our blog posts for ideas and inspiration to activate your life. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to MoveMore during the day, so go ahead and get started!

 

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Importance of pilot studies in research, part 1

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Data gathered in the course of scientific studies can be a powerful influence on businesses and individuals seeking objective expertise. In general, the more robust a study is, the greater its credibility. But in some cases, even very small and relatively short-term projects can be impactful.

The role of a pilot study can be to test an uncertain hypothesis or to uncover problems that might compromise the data on a large scale. If the research is written up and published in a scientific journal, it serves to confer additional status to the project. Maybe most importantly, a successful pilot program can result in funding for future research. So in effect, a pilot study fulfills a similar function to the dress rehearsal that precedes opening night of a Broadway play.

For example, Ergotron was approached by researchers to support a study involving students of the ATTAIN Technology Lab in Minnesota. ATTAIN is a work experience teaching lab where students with special needs receive training in computer skills that could be used on-the-job after graduation. Initially, I was skeptical. My primary concern was that the students’ learning challenges were far too variable to provide clear results. I was also uncertain that the students, even with guidance from their instructors, would be able to maintain a sit-stand cycle sufficient to impact behavior and performance.

For their study the researchers planned to randomly assign 13 ATTAIN lab students into intervention and comparison groups. The intervention group was to receive sit‐to‐stand units which enable them to easily alternate between sitting and standing. Students were to be encouraged to stand for at least five minutes every 30 minutes but could opt to stand longer.

How could something as simple as breaking up sitting time with bouts of standing change a student’s learning experience? And if we knew the answer to that, what would be the implications for mainstream students? And what about working adults and retirees?

These two questions are at the heart of Ergotron’s sit-stand research initiative. Knowing that prolonged sitting is a growing public health hazard, Ergotron has supported independent researchers around the world in order to find out more.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, when I will elaborate on the published results of this case in point, the ATTAIN pilot study.
carrie s_a-hr

– Carrie Schmitz, Sr. Manager of Ergonomic & Wellness Research at Ergotron (@giveafig)

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