Since sitting has become the new smoking (OK, sitting probably isn't as bad as a cigarette habit, but it has been linked to lower life expectancy), people at desk jobs have been looking for ways to both get their jobs done, and sit less — for some, a lot less. Standing desks have become popular, but along with the health-promoting benefits of standing for most of the day come a number of physical complaints from those who aren't used to being on their feet all day.
MNN employee Catie Leary, who has been standing at her desk since the new year started, noticed some aches and pains when she switched from sitting all day to standing. "When I first set up my standing desk, I started experiencing some lower back pain and minor plantar fasciitis within the first several weeks. Luckily, I was able to nip all that in the bud, thanks to some really helpful and effective advice from ... yoga instructors I regularly practice under. If I hadn't, I probably would have switched back to sitting by now!" Catie wrote about how she dealt with the challenge.
To beat the discomfort from a standing desk, one simple fix might be taking a few sitting breaks. Working one's way up to standing all day is important, so if you are just starting out, consider doing a few hours standing a few hours sitting. Standing on a soft pad, and wearing supportive, comfortable shoes can also help (no flip-flops!) And as Catie figured out, some simple yoga moves can loosen up the muscles that get tight (hey, getting up and moving is pretty much always a good thing, so even if you are still sitting most of the day, the following moves are worth working into your day. Lilly Kovesi, a Connecticut-based yoga teacher, suggests a short routine (if you have done a basics yoga class, you will recognize these poses; if not, here's a simple guide):
"Start with a combination of Mountain Pose (tadasana) followed by Standing Half Moon (ardha chandrasana), a side bending pose.
Move to Tree (vrksasana) on each side and then into Mountain Pose with arms over head (urdhva hastasana).
Interlace fingers behind back and fold forward (Yoga mudra), and finish with a Standing Forward Fold with an easy twist: One hand on the earth (under the face) other hand extended to sky. End in Mountain Pose."
Lilly also suggests working Revolved Chair Pose (parivrtta utkatasana) into the routine to extend it. All these moves get you to pay attention to your posture, so they should help loosen your body up as well as remind yourself how to stand well (with both feet comfortably planted on the floor, weight evenly distributed). And the side bending and side twists should subtly realign the two sides of your body, so that you are evened out (which will make you less likely to slump in one direction or another, which puts strain on the back).
"Obviously every body is different, but I have a feeling that these bad experiences probably could have been prevented if they included a little yoga in their life," wrote Catie. So before you give up on the standing desk, try a bit of yoga or some breaks and see how you feel after a couple of days, and if you have been thinking of trying a standing desk, be aware that it's probably a good idea to work up to a full day, take breaks, and that a few stretches might ward off discomfort as you transition.