Office workers are all too familiar with the feeling of being “chained to the desk”.
So after a persistent leg ache during grant-writing season in 2011, Flinders University Professor of Public Health John Coveney decided to ditch his desk and chair for a standing workstation.
Although he’s now on his feet most of the day, he hasn’t looked back.
“During grant-writing season you virtually bolt yourself to the desk for 10 hours a day but I kept getting an ache in the back of my thigh and I thought this really can’t be healthy,” Professor Coveney said.
“I knew someone who did a bit of work on the benefits of standing desks and to cut a long story short we got two standing desks donated to us from a supplier,” he said.
“I have a cordless, hands-free phone now too so my office is reasonably active, even when I’m working.
“I do go to the gym and lead an active lifestyle anyway but having flexible standing and sitting arrangements in my office allows me to engage in moderate amounts of activity while I work, and I also have more control over how I spend my day.”
Professor Coveney’s workstation is custom-made to retrofit onto a standard desk and has the option of allowing users to sit or stand.
While he has not personally researched the benefits of standing desks, Professor Coveney said the perils of prolonged sedentary behaviour, such as sitting, have been widely documented in the past, with research showing inactive people were more likely to develop chronic diseases.
“Sedentary behaviour like sitting is a risk factor for obesity and that in itself is a risk factor for other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease.
“But as soon as you stand your metabolic rate changes and, importantly, you’re far more likely to move around more, which burns more calories.
“If people have no medical issues that suggest you shouldn’t stand at work, then I say go for it because from my experience it’s been fantastic.”
Several other Flinders employees also use standing workstations, including a fellow colleague in the Prevention, Promotion and Primary Health Care Cluster, as well as staff in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.
As for the leg ache?
“All gone now – in fact I can even stretch my legs while standing and working if I want.”
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