To Sit or Stand

Clearing the air on how to optimize your posture in the work environment 

   For many of you sitting is the position you spend most of your day in. You sit while you work. You sit while you commute. You sit while eating    meals and while watching TV or reading to your kids at night. In this technological age most people spend the majority of their day in front of a  computer and this makes posture and body position difficult.

 The new consensus among many researchers and health care providers is that sitting is bad for you. If you just “Google” the word sitting and  nothing else you will see articles from CNN and Washington Post regarding the mortality of sitting.  A step further and you’ll get more articles  about the negative effects of sitting from MayoClinic, NPR, WebMB, and other news and health platforms.  We have even posted a
previous  article about the harmful effects of sitting. 

    And it’s true, sitting is bad for you…. But what does this really mean. Besides let’s face it, sometimes sitting is your only option. 

    So I want to take some time to clear the air on what I and other experts think is so wrong with sitting.  The problem here is that while sitting  may not be great for you, prolonged sitting is what is truly bad for you.  The World Health Organization (WHO) defines prolonged sitting as  “sitting for 8-12 hours or more a day.”  They also link prolonged sitting to increasing a person’s risk of developing type 2 Diabetes by 90%.  (2
) Another recent study links prolonged sitting to increased risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and death, even in people who exercise. (3)

   So my general recommendation is to yes, sit less, but more importantly MOVE MORE! 

   So what’s the solution you ask?  Should I use a standing desk? Should I get one of those roller balls? Or what about a treadmill desk? 


   I actually don’t recommend to my patients that they completely stop sitting at work or that they only stand.  Basically a little bit of standing,  a little bit of sitting, but get up and move around through the day.  This is hard for people to grasp because this is often the hardest thing to  do especially with a busy work day.  But remember physical inactivity and prolonged static postures are the problem and these can occur at  standing-only desks too. 

   I recommend taking 1-5 min breaks every hour to half hour to stand or walk around at the office. (This burns extra calories too!)

   An important thing to remember is sometimes I refer to as ACTIVE sitting or ACTIVE standing. Another way to think about this is actively  engaging your stomach and back muscles to maintain a neutral spine.  Neutral Spine follows the natural curvature of the spine where forces  are evenly distributed, and muscle forces are balanced. This should be the ‘rest’ position or position you spend most of your time in.  Here are  some tips and images to help with neutral spine: Core is pulled in, gluts tightened, rib cage is pulled down, collar bone lifted up with  slight chin tuck, shoulder pulled lightly back, relaxed knees if standing or knees at 90-100 deg if sitting.  If you are still confused or feel you  need help with this, give us a call and come visit the clinic!

   Sitting for a long time isn't great but standing for extended periods of time isn't great either. What you want to do is break up your day, sit a  little, stand a little, walk a little, stretch a little.

Here are some tips to be successful with posture:

   Scale up slowly, if you are switching to a new posture at work, your body will need breaks and may only be able to handle 15 to 20 min of the  new position.

   Exercise ball seat:

   This can be a nice tool to shake things up at the office from the classic office chair, but requires more work.  It is very important that you are    ACTIVELY sitting when using an exercise ball, engaging your core and thinking about your sitting posture at all times.  Positives: Some people  reports improvements in back and core strength. Negatives: No arm rests and cause extra strain on the neck and shoulders, generally weak  core may cause back pain with sitting on the ball.

   Standing desk: 

   Sitting desk:

​   But remember, MOVEMENT and BALANCE are key, listen to your body! Sitting for a long time isn't great but standing for extended periods of      time isn't great either. What you want to do is break up your day, sit a little, stand a little, walk a little, stretch a little.

Heather Hartman, DPT, PT

(1) Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks

This has become the new favorite posture in the work place.  I believe that standing desks offer an excellent break from sitting, however many people do not have the core strength or feet/knee alignment to stand for an entire day.  Have “soft knees “- avoid locking your knees backward, especially if you're quite flexible. Another tip is to use a foot stool as another option to alter your posture throughout the day as your core fatigues.  Positives: Possible decrease in back pain, burns more calories, decreased health risks associated with sitting. Negatives: Swollen feet, painful ankles, knee problems, and possible increased back pain -primarily musculoskeletal problems.


Maintain Active sitting in your chair, engaging your core, to maintain neutral spine.  Try not to sit for more than 2-4 hours a day at the office and break it up in 30 min bits. Clinically the most detrimental thing I see in patient is the combination of hip flexor tightness and glut inhibition from sitting, meaning, in simplest terms, the hips are too tight and the gluts are too weak because you don’t use then when you sitting.  Make sure to take frequent breaks and stretch out your hips.

Sitting postures: A. Flexed lumbar and pelvic region.  B. Neutral spine.  C. Over extended pelvic and lumbar region. 

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