The science supporting the health benefits of frequently changing posture in the workplace is well documented.1,2 A standard credo of ergonomic professionals is “Your Next Posture is Your Best Posture.” Let’s take a look at how postural change can potentially impact an employee’s health.

Reducing Static Muscle Tension

When we are in postures that are non-neutral, the skeletal muscles must increase the amount of contraction to support the abnormal posture and/or movement. This higher level of contraction leads to a faster rate of muscle fatigue. Since blood flow is typically restricted to these muscles due to the poor posture, excessive soreness will result, and if this continues for a long period of time this can develop into chronic pain. Changes in posture or microbreaks allow for recovery via increased blood flow to the area.

Better Breathing

When sitting in a slouched position, we typically adopt a chest breathing strategy which primarily engages just the upper 1/3 of the lung and is far less efficient, resulting in less oxygen for the tissues, organs and brain. This may result in fatigue, increased respiration and a higher pulse rate. Chest breathing also taxes the postural muscles of the ribs, upper back and chest which can quickly fatigue. Over time, fatigue leads to abnormal muscle tension which leads to insufficient blood flow and eventually trigger points, which result in chronic pain and irritation.4

By altering our posture to be more erect thru supported sitting or standing, one can engage the diaphragm muscle more efficiently for a more proper belly (or diaphragm) breathing technique. Diaphragmatic breathing increases blood oxygen levels substantially by allowing for deeper breaths where oxygen exchange is 5-7X more efficient than in the lower aspects of the lung5. Greater blood oxygen levels lead to less pain, more energy and better overall health.

Post-meal standing/walking

Standing/movement immediately after meals can reduce blood glucose levels by up to 50%6. The simple act of standing for 15-20 minutes after arriving at the office and after lunch may be an effective strategy for reducing blood sugars in at-risk employees. Each percentage point decrease in A1c (average blood sugar) reduces the risk of eye, kidney, and nerve diseases by 40%7.

Lower Extremity and Core Muscle Engagement

Contraction of the postural muscles that occurs during transition from sitting to standing releases Lipoprotein Lipase (LPL) enzyme which facilitates the breakdown of triglycerides (fats) and increases in HDL cholesterol (ie “the good cholesterol”). LPL levels decrease significantly after just one day of inactivity.8 Control of cholesterol levels can reduce cardiovascular complications by 20–50%9. The health benefit of frequent sit to stand transition has been well documented by Vernikos10. Additionally, contraction of the lower extremity muscles stimulated by active standing coupled with foot contact forces has been shown to increase blood flow wave action to the brain11.

Active Standing

Non-Exercise Activity-based Thermogenesis, aka “NEAT”, is a concept described by Levine et al12. On average, active standing burns 0.7-0.8 calories extra per minute13. It has been shown that non-obese individuals have higher levels of NEAT in their lives14. Incorporating just 30 min of NEAT activity into the workday can reduce the risk of developing various disease states including cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.15 It is important to understand that standing, like sitting, can also become a sedentary activity. Frequently change your posture and listen to your body. It will tell you when it’s time to change.

Relaxing Hip Flexor Tightness

Excessive sitting leads to chronically shortened hip flexor muscles which can create low back pain (LBP) by excessively rotating the pelvis. Hip flexor tightness may also significantly impact stress levels in the body. The hip flexor is a “Fight or Flight” muscle group, with a direct link to the amygdala of the brain. As a result, tight hip flexors can lead to increased release of the stress hormone cortisol16. Excessive cortisol levels can affect an individual’s mental health17. The presence of cortisol has also been shown to inhibit insulin function in the body18, the substance necessary for processing sugars in the bloodstream, thereby leading to excess fat storage and possibly diabetes.

Reducing Spinal Disc Compression i.e Back Pain

Standing upright significantly reduces compressive forces in the spine. For comparison sake, compressive forces when seated in the traditional 90-90-90 “ergonomic” position are about 40% higher than standing.19 When seated in the forward hunch position commonly seen with computer use, the forces are about 70% higher than standing.20 For individuals with Low Back Pain (LBP), which is reportedly 11% of the population,21 providing proper ergonomics including Sit-Stand capability with the ability to change posture, resulted in a significant reduction in pain levels. 22

Engaging the Core Muscles for Mental Health

There is now compelling evidence that engagement of the core muscles thru adopting a more erect posture (ie no slouching) has a direct impact on mental health and depression.  Both Fairbend23 and Strick et al 24 have recently published about the role of posture and active stretching can have on mental health.

Reducing the Risk of DVT, VTE

A recent article in USA Today25 quoted both Dr Zhaoping Li from UCLA and Dr. Mary Fishman from University of Vermont about the dangers of inactivity in this time of “Stay at Home” lockdown resulting from Covid 19. Risks of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Venous Thromboembolism are significantly higher when sedentary postures are maintained and little to no movement is taking place.

An Easy, Economical Solution

Working From Home during Covid19 lockdown  has resulted in the creation of makeshift offices on sofas, kitchen counters and the dining room table. Standard corporate locations are also fraught with stationary worktops positioned at 29.5” high, ill-suited to fit the majority of employees. To ensure maximum health, it is imperative to provide the employee tools that facilitate postural change over the course of the workday. Increased comfort leads to fewer ergonomic claims and higher levels of productivity. Sit-stand desks, when properly deployed with training and reminder software have been shown to be an effective mitigation against static postures,26-28. while not sacrificing productivity.

Get StanData

Use the StanData mobile app on your iOS or Android device or access StanData using your web browser to track your transitions from sitting to standing throughout the day and reach your goals. Download the mobile app or access the StanData online and give it a try! We’d love to hear what you think.


  1. Loitz C, Walker J, Potter R, Johnston N. Systematic review of workplace physical activity and sedentary behaviour interventions. PROSPERO 2015:CRD42015019398
  2. Physical Activity in the Workplace A Guide for Employers Workplace Health Research Network, which is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 3U48DP005045 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Prevention Research Centers Program.
  3. Ann Clin Lab Sci Summer 2012 vol. 42 no. 3 320-337 Knight, JA
  4. Gerwin RD, Dommerholt J, Shah JP. An expansion of Simons’ integrated hypothesis of trigger point formation. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2004 Dec;8(6):468–75
  5. West, JB. Respiratory Physiology: The Essentials 9th edition  2012 Lippincott Wiliams & Wilkins, Baltimore MD
  6. Buckley JP, Mellor DD, Morris M, et al Standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating post-prandial glycaemic excursion. Occup Environ Med Occup Environ Med. 2014 Feb;71(2):109-11.
  7. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/index.htm.
  8. Hamilton, MT, Hamilton DG et al. Role of Low Energy Expenditure and Sitting in Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease Diabetes 56:2655–2667, 2007
  9. http://ndep.nih.gov/media/2005_National_Diabetes_Fact_Sheet.pdf
  10. Sitting Kills, Movement Heals Vernikos, Joan
  11. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170424141340.htm
  12. Levine JA Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Dec;16(4):679-702.
  13. Buckley JP, Mellor DD, Morris M, et al Standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating post-prandial glycaemic excursion. Occup Environ Med Occup Environ Med. 2014 Feb;71(2):109-11.
  14. Levine JA Diabetologia. 2015 August ; 58(8): 1751–1758. doi:10.1007/s00125-015-3624-6.
  15. Warburton DER, Nicol CW, and Bredin, SSD. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence CMAJ. 2006 Mar 14; 174(6): 801–809
  16. https://bodydivineyoga.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/the-psoas-muscle-of-the-soul/
  17. https://www.inc.com/matthew-jones/how-mental-health-can-save-businesses-225-billion-each-year.html
  18. Vogelzangs N Urinary cortisol and six-year risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Nov;95(11):4959-64
  19. Nachemson A, Elfström G. Intravital dynamic pressure measurements in lumbar discs. A study of common movements, maneuvers and exercises. Scand J Rehabil Med Suppl. 1970;1:1-40.
  20. Ibid
  21. Integrated Benefits Institute, Health and Productivity Impact of Chronic Conditions, Back Pain https://ibiweb.org/research-resources/detail/health-and-productivity-impact-of-chronic-conditions-back-pain
  22. Ognibene GT1, Torres W, von Eyben R, Horst KC. Impact of a Sit-Stand Workstation on Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a Randomized Trial J Occup Environ Med. 2016 Mar;58(3):287-93
  23. Fairbend K  Stand Up to Depression: How To Activate THE BODY MIND MIRACLE and Defeat Depression Paperback – published October 2019 Outskirts Press, ISBN-10: 1977217605
  24. Dum RP, Levinthal DJ, Strick PL The mind-body problem: Circuits that link the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Dec 23. pii: 201902297. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1902297116.
  25. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/04/08/coronavirus-inactivity-health-experts-tips-self-care-quarantine/2967723001/
  26. Garrett G, Benden M, Mehta R, Pickens A, Camille Peres, S & Zhao H Call Center Productivity Over 6 Months Following a Standing Desk Intervention, IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors, 4:2-3, 188-195,
  27. Goggins RW, Spielholz P, Nothstein GL. Estimating the effectiveness of ergonomics interventions through case studies: implications for predictive cost-benefit analysis. J Safety Res. 2008;39(3):339-44.
  28. Karakolis T, Callaghan JP. The impact of sit-stand office workstations on worker discomfort and productivity: a review. Appl Ergon. 2014 May;45(3):799-806