Carolinas HealthCare System

Sports Medicine & Injury Care
Exercise Balls and Standing Desks at Work: Are they Really Good for Your Health?

Sitting on a yoga ball? Using a standing desk? These two latest trends are catching on in the work place, especially for people who worry about back pain and the dangers of extended sitting. But are they really that great for your back?

Research shows that sitting too long can be bad for your back, and overall health, according to Carolinas Rehabilitation expert Michael Agnone, PT. It’s important to get up and move throughout the day.

“Some recent health studies found that those who sit for long periods of time have a higher risk of disease than those who stand up and stretch their legs,” Agnone said. “And another study showed that people who sat too long had an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

Researchers at the American Cancer Society found that even if you exercise every day, the health benefits can be undone if you spend the rest of the day sitting.

It’s no wonder that several work places are trading in traditional sitting desks for a standing desk environment. However, after the first month of use, most people realize they do not want to stand all day and the use of standing desks declines quickly.

“Standing too long, more than about 2 hours at a time, could increase back and foot pain,” Agnone said.

Standing is more tiring than sitting, and research also shows that it increases the risk of varicose veins, and may increase heart disease and overuse of the wrist and neck.”

Still wondering if you should stand or sit all day? The answer likely lies some where in the middle. Both sitting and standing throughout the workday may be the best solution.

Agnone recommends these easy fixes in your workspace:

  • If you sit, stand up every 20-30 minutes. Stretch, make a phone call while standing, or walk to your co-worker’s desk to ask a question in person.
  • If standing to work, walk around periodically and sit, with efficient posture, as needed.
  • Whether sitting or standing, adjust your keyboard and computer monitor to the proper height.

“Research shows no real health benefits to sitting on an exercise ball,” Agnone said. “Unfortunately, most people find it challenging to maintain proper posture and tend to slump easily unless they know how to properly position themselves.”

Again, aim to stand up every 20-30 minutes if you’re concerned about prolonged sitting.

If you still experience back pain after taking these easy steps, call 704-863-HURT to schedule an appointment with one of Carolina HealthCare System’s board-certified physicians. Our Sports Medicine & Injury Care centers are conveniently located throughout the greater Charlotte area and feature 24-hour scheduling.

An NATA-certified athletic trainer and board-certified orthopedic physical therapy specialist, Michael Agnone, PT, is the center manager of Randolph Road and Mt. Island Lake outpatient clinics for Carolinas Rehabilitation and coordinates the physical therapy sports medicine program. Agnone also works with Myers Park High School and coordinates physical therapy outreach with local high schools and athletic trainers.

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