The 3 benefits of using a standing desk at work

By Tom Bosna – Managing Director

 

When the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” was first referenced in the media it created absolute pandemonium in our Corporate Wellness Centres!

I remember many of our clients attending their Physiotherapy or Myotherapy appointments with sore necks and lower backs wanting quick answers. Our staff were inundated with requests for ergonomic advice, and opinions on the latest craze of the year – standing desks!

“Tom, I watched the news and apparently sitting is the new smoking. My work colleague has a sore back and ordered a standing desk – do you think I need one?” This conversation was had on repeat and continues today.

With influence by reputable employers like Apple endorsing standing desks they really could be onto something. The CEO of Apple Tim Cook has recently commented in an interview about Apple Park “We have given all of our employees, 100%, standing desks. If you can stand for a while, then sit, and so on and so forth, it’s much better for your lifestyle.” Before we take Mr Cook’s word for it – let’s analyse the facts.

The facts

In 2016, Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) ranked 7th on the list of top drivers of global disability. Among those aged 15–49, the top contributors to MSDs included occupational injuries and ergonomic issues (HME, 2015).

The impact of these MSDs on productivity, presenteeism and lost time are well documented in occupational health.

With increased demand for knowledge workers influencing workplaces across the world – it is essential that the health of employees is prioritised.

Why is sitting so bad?

Contrary to the alarmists in the media, and health professionals who have enjoyed their time in the sun on this topic – let me say one thing: there is nothing wrong with sitting.

We sit to enjoy a cup of tea with friends, we sit and watch our children run at the park, we sit down at a nice restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine. Sitting is part of everyday life.

Two words I want you to understand and be aware of: Ischaemic. Pain.

Ischaemic. If I was a gambling man, I bet five dollars that you have heard the word ischaemic heart disease. Ischaemic by definition refers to the deficiency of blood supply to a body part due to obstruction of inflow of arterial blood. A practical example of this is when you sit at your desk for too long during the day and you feel your lower back tensing and becoming sore. This can be a restriction in blood flow to that area of your body. You stand up, go for a walk and the tension is relieved, and goes away.

Pain. By cognitive association you are no doubt thinking about the last time you hurt a body part. Say the word pain ten times and it sounds like it hurts. The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines pain as an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience, associated with actual or potential tissue damage.

A practical example of pain is when you sit at the desk for over 2 hours. You feel your lower back tense and it becomes sore. You feel frustrated, worried and angry that your back is sore. You get up to move but you are still sore. You are ‘so busy’ and take nurofen to make it better. You return to your desk, and in sitting the pain cycle continues.

If you marry Ischemic and Pain together you are probably sitting on the problem!

Have a look at your colleagues sitting at their desk. Are they stooped forward at their head and neck? Are they hunched over at their mid spine and look tired?

These positions not only look emotionally sad, but they are problematic – especially when held for a prolonged period of time. Blood flow is restricted, movement is stagnant and you not only feel pain, but you can feel trapped in a vicious cycle of inactivity, and struggle to get comfortable.

The rise of the standing desk

I’m sure you have that colleague that plays up and down with the sit stand desk all day. I bet they even count steps on their fitbit, do crossfit and are always up for a chat about how many mindful moments they have completed this week.  

They are so ridiculously happy with themselves aren’t they?

Cutting through this though – in my opinion – the main benefits of using a standing desk or active workstations are very logical.

Productivity  Standing up demands a happier, and more engaged posture. Increased alertness and engagement nets greater productivity than sitting. Simple.

Increased energy levels Standing up will cumulatively improve mood, and will result in greater energy output over time.

Reduce Cardiovascular risk One of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease is circumference of the waist. Standing up results in greater oxygen uptake of the employee and more incidental movement. These factors combined can reduce your cardiovascular risk profile.

So should you get a standing desk?

With small and large organisations making significant investment into active workstations, break out spaces and ergonomic furnishings – this is the time to ‘stand up’, and invest in you.

Tom is the Director of Pinnacle Health Group Australia & Movement Concept Advisor for the International WELL Building standards Institute.

References

Hedge A, Puleio J, Wang V. Evaluating the Impact of an Office Ergonomics Program. Proc Hum Factors Ergon Soc Annu Meet. 2011;55(1):594-598. doi:10.1177/1071181311551121

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). GBD Compare. 2015. http://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare.

Founder well-being: Check your health, before you wreck yourself!

This is a public service announcement for founders and the startup community.

Let’s be real about the treacherous lifestyle you have chosen. It is a roller coaster, one with many big dips, ups and loop the loop moments. Your friends and family think you are insane but you secretly love it. You know the startup grind requires courage, decisiveness and endurance.

Are you ready for the physicality of the startup grind?

Let me elaborate with a story about my mate Joe, an amazing entrepreneur from Melbourne.

Joe is a larger than life personality by nature, very likable and an extremely confident net-worker. Over the period of twelve months he successfully launched a health technology platform to the market and as any entrepreneur would do, he drove sales and joint ventures quickly.

Joe set the pace of the business and in year two his team grew very rapidly. Running on enthusiasm, adrenaline and excitement Joe started to find it a little difficult to switch off and get enough sleep. But there was no time for rest, exercise or time zone adjustments as he expanded into Singapore where he spent three months raising funds, networking and leading product expansion.

Joe’s friends and family were so happy for him, he was an overnight success until one night the fast paced lifestyle had caught up with him. After an intensive asian banquet for dinner and a few beers, he suddenly felt dizzy, had severe chest pain, headache and serious stomach pain.  Joe was instantly scared and worried.

Was it the dumplings, beers or a heart attack?

Let’s talk about three key components of well-being that Joe has neglected.

Fuel to the Fire

An internal fire burns inside the heart of an entrepreneur like Joe.

It burns, it burns and then it runs out. I failed to mention was that Joe was living on a diet of long macchiato and espresso during business meetings (at least four a day). For dinner, uber eats was too convenient not to mention pizza deliveries and coke zero for all nighters with the team!

With so much caffeine and fast food options in his lifestyle, Joe was literally running on empty and the stomach pain was the symptom of a greater issue, his diet.

To the start up community I highly recommend consuming at least three glasses of water for every coffee you consume. Coffee in any shape or form is a stimulant, anti-diuretic and acts on the central nervous system to increase alertness.  Combining high stress work with caffeine and foods high in sodium, carbohydrates and fat will result in weight gain, sluggishness and decrease your performance. If you are a go-getter and want to excel like Joe you want to consume foods rich in protein and low glycaemic index (GI).

Low GI foods can improve your ability to concentrate, sustain energy and make you feel fuller for longer – curbing the carbohydrate cravings such as pizza. Pick the right fuel for your engine.

No rest for the wicked

Founders are not immune to sleepless nights, feeling worried and working long hours. As travel schedules demand early morning starts and late night finishes, sleep becomes a liability.

In the case of Joe, his sleeping patterns become erratic. Over time, his sleeping pattern become so disrupted that four hours a night was considered the norm and the feelings of dizziness was a symptom of exhaustion.

Sleep can affect every part of your life. Your mood, energy, weight can all be influenced by the amount of sleep you achieve.

For founders, committing to healthy sleeping habits such as going to bed and waking at a consistent time is essential. Seven to nine hours minimum a night for healthy adults is required to perform well. Stay wicked but make sure rest!

High intensity lifestyles require physical resilience

With less than ideal amounts of sleep and terrible food habits – Joe did not feel up for exercise. Prior to launching his business he was an F45 member and attended six times a week., it was cult-like! His preference for fitness was high intensity and variety was important.

With the success of the business and travel requirements, getting out for a short run even become difficult.

Founders, please know one thing, the more physically active you are the greater your ability to think and create. If time is your excuse then do a short burst of high intensity exercise for fifteen minutes daily.

Being a brilliant entrepreneur requires creativity and resilient. Physical fitness will aid and improve these two areas dramatically.

Summary

Founders you have chosen a difficult and challenging lifestyle. Fueling, resting and staying fit will enhance your performance and help you achieve your dreams. Don’t be like Joe and burn out over dumplings and beers you are better than that!

Are you an active couch potato?

Active couch potato

By Tom Bosna – Managing Director

It is no secret, sitting for prolonged periods is NOT good for us.

With phrases like “sitting is the new smoking” being used in the media of late it is important to really understand the key issues and be able to make informed decisions about how to look after ourselves in the workplace.

In 2015, I wrote a small article 3 easy ways to create movement opportunities at work. At that point in time the research from the University of Queensland showed that even when Adults met the recommended physical activity guidelines, the effects of this have been negated by the amount of time sitting per day. In other words, if you enjoy a High Intensity Training (HIT)  session three times a week at the gym but go back to work and sit like a desk jockey for the remaining 40 hours of the week you are potentially sitting in the active couch potato seat and are not capitalising on incidental movement opportunities in the workplace.

In 2018, the research continues to show sedentary behaviours are strongly linked to negative health outcomes such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular, metabolic risks and premature death. The fact that all of the above are preventable is what is really concerning to me!

Based on my research and key learnings from the WELL Building standards study & Movement concept advisory I recommend three easy solutions to avoiding becoming an active couch potato.

Workplace Design

The future of work, is technology enabled, hyper connected and agile in design. Gone are the days where you sit in the same desk every day and sit in meetings all day.

Modern workplaces are designed for movement. Please assess your workplace now with four check-points.

  1. Is your locker, printer & meeting rooms all a walk from where you spend the majority of the day?
  2. Does the workplace have a wellness or fitness centre with exclusive deals for staff?
  3. Are standing desks or active workstations available in break out areas?

If you said yes to all of the above – you are in a well workplace. The key question is are you making the most of the design?

Plan your work, work your plan

As an astute observer of human behaviour and neuroscience enthusiast, it really bothers me when I see people walking with their phones glued to their hand in the early morning. I can see the phone lighting up like a Christmas tree with rapid push notifications jumping out of the screen. When you observe this happening it really looks like a wave of anxiety and I worry for the person’s brain and performance.

To address getting past this roadblock I believe planning your work, working your plan is essential.

The modern workplace is structured to work agile and leveraging technology apps such as slack and yammer. Being disciplined with your time and day is essential and blocking time for movement and exercise  is critical.

Movement is great for your performance, mental health and resilience. If it was a pill everyone would be doing it!

At Pinnacle Health Group, our teams utilise the walking meeting, pilates hour or exercise club to keep performance and morale high. This type of team activity is planned and organised to get the teams together once a week.

For anyone interested in learning the neuroscience at work I’d highly recommend the book titled “Your brain at work” by David Rock. It is for those of you who are interested in surviving and thriving in the modern workplace.

You have to take the stairs

A wise person once said, there is no elevator to success – you have to take the stairs. You will see it every morning, there are people who take the escalator and those that take the stairs.

Choose the latter every time and this will improve your incidental movement output significantly.

In the modern workplace and cities of the future, active exterior design is critical to influencing physical engagement levels of the community. A nice practical resource on this topic is the walk score.

Summary

Movement is medicine for the mind and body with tangible returns on investment!

We spend 90% of our time indoors and one third of our lives at work. The great opportunity here is incidental movement. – make the most of your time by taking the stairs & working your plan.

Are you Addicted to your Smartphone? by Tom Bosna

Recent research into this space suggest that an attachment to your smart phone is similar to other addictions and it involves the dysregulation of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s reward centre. In other words, it motivates people to do things they think they will be rewarded for doing. Every time you get an email through your phone, there is a little elevation in dopamine that says you might have something that’s compelling. You don’t know what the email is, who it’s from, when you’re going to get it and that’s why you have to keep checking your phone. Can you see the problem here?

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Pinnacle Health Group Bowling Night

PInnacleHealthGroupBowlingNight

We are constantly telling our patients that life is about the balance; you need to have your work, rest and play! We are people of our word, believing in practising what we preach, and last week the Pinnacle Health Group Melbourne team enjoyed some fun and health competition, taking to the bowling lanes for a few games. Proving to be quite the athlete was Gavan Macrides, one of our Physiotherapists from the Collins St and Flinders St clinics; he took out the title as “Best on Ground” for his shark like ability to bowl strike after strike!