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Can lead to stiff neck and back pain

                 Part I of II

Standing while studying, working, reading … good for children and adults to learn, work and be healthier!

I think we would all agree, technology is a wonderful thing. However, like all good things, it comes at a price. Students and workers alike have always suffered from the many physical effects of sitting for too many hours. But now, with a full day of Zoom classes, virtual meetings and long hours working from home, I have heard from many people suffering from neck, middle and lower back pain as well as headaches associated with prolonged sitting and computer use. 

Studies show the impact of prolonged sitting, especially with poor posture, are multifaceted; pain, headaches, vision problems, poor concentration, excess fat storage with weight gain. Studies strongly support the use of using good posture, ergonomic workstations, posture stretches and frequent changes of positions, including the use of standing desks to prevent pain and injury. In fact, standing desks are not a new invention; they have been used by many to promote health and stimulate thought…Hemingway, Franklin and Jefferson all stood while they worked.

The Problem is Gravity!

The average head weighs 10 to 12 pounds and when tilted down at a 45 degree angle the forces of gravity are multiplied by 5. While reading, studying or working on the computer with poor posture, one must support 50 or more pounds of pressure on the neck, middle and lower back for hours on end. It is no wonder why this activity is associated with headaches, neck and back pain, numbness and tingling in arms and legs, muscle spasms etc.  Some studies report the lifetime prevalence of neck and shoulder pain in office workers as high as 80%.

Recent research has also correlated the amount of time an individual sits to a decrease in their average life expectancy. Seriously, watching television and sitting is literally killing us. The Heart and Diabetes Institute of Australia conducted extensive research on sedentary behavior, including a review of almost one million people. They used actuary science, adjusted for smoking, waist circumference, and diet and exercise habits to assess the specific effects that the hours of sitting in a day impacts a person’s life span. They found that sitting too long results in a decrease in muscle contraction of the big leg muscles and because these unused muscles need less fuel, more unused glucose (fuel) is stored in the muscle. High glucose levels result in high blood sugar, which leads to adult onset diabetes and other health issues.

Sitting in a Virtual or Real Classroom…

The deleterious effects of sitting in children have also come under scrutiny and it may impact the classroom. Due to technology, today’s classroom is more advanced in many ways. However, the traditional hard chair and desk remain unchanged. Not only are these, “one size fits all,” desks uncomfortable, current research suggests that they may also limit learning.

Recent studies show that standing desks promote not only a physically healthier child by expending more calories and lowering obesity, but also improves focus and concentration to improve academic outcomes.

Research from Texas A&M Health Science Center found two landmark things about children who worked at standing desks such as Stand2LearnR, when compared to those seated: One, children burned more calories and obese children burned more than normal-weight peers. Two, children were more attentive in the classroom and engaged more with their teacher and their work when allowed to stand. Teachers in the study not only found the results to be favorable for fidgety, high-energy kids, but those who tend to be overweight and tired benefited greatly.

Researchers were quick to point out that there may be many ways to promote movement and limit sitting in the classroom that may also promote learning in a healthy way such as sitting on exercise balls or inflatable discs.

Sitting in the Home Office or Work Office …

The average office worker sits for more than 10 hours per day between office work, sitting at lunch, checking email and social media at home. Amazingly, studies suggest that even vigorous exercise before and after work cannot overcome the damage from prolonged sitting. New products such as the “TrekDeskR,” allows a worker to work on a computer, phone, or do paperwork, while walking on a treadmill, has health benefits. Also, other products such as VariDeskR, allows for frequent positional changes from sitting to standing while working. Even without using a standing desk, changing positions, such as standing during phone calls or meetings has proven to be valuable.

TrekDesk; VariDesk; Stand2Learn Desk

Caption: Standing desks have been used by many to promote health and stimulate thought…Hemingway, Franklin and Jefferson all stood while they worked.

(use TrekDesk photo ( from previous column and refer to column date or link) Photo of VariDesk (; Photo of Stand2Learn Desk (

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Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every MondayThis article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.