Ask an Exercise Physiologist: Stand-up desks and pain during yoga | HerCanberra

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Ask an Exercise Physiologist: Stand-up desks and pain during yoga

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We’re here to help. Wonderful questions this week—last questions till we are back in 2021!

Ask an EP is here to help with all your health and wellness questions and challenges—lifestyle, wellness, pain and health.

Do you have a burning health and wellness question?

Now is your chance to ask. Every week we will pick a couple of questions, and help you solve your burning query. If we share our problems, we are more likely to solve them.

I have my wonderful work colleague, Kayla Bonney is answering a question this week too.

Let’s get started:

Hi Kirra. I’m trying to lose weight and considering a stand-up desk for my office.

Do you think this would be a worthwhile change? Does standing burn more calories than sitting?

— Sam, 52

Great question. Rigorous studies of standing desk benefits have not yet been performed (only small studies over short periods of time have taken place). So, the real health impact of a standing desk is not certain.

A recent study examined the “Energy Expenditure During Acute Periods of Sitting, Standing, and Walking”.

The study measured oxygen consumption of 74 healthy people, as a reflection of how many calories they burned while doing computer work, watching TV, standing, or walking on a treadmill. Results indicated:

  • While sitting, study subjects burned 80 calories/hour
  • While standing, the number of calories burned was only slightly higher than while sitting—about 88 calories/hour
  • Walking burned 210 calories/hour

Indicating the use of a standing desk for three hours burns an extra 24 calories. Whoop doop—about the same number of calories in a carrot!

So, if you’re using a standing desk to burn calories—ahh, think again! However, walking for 30 minutes at lunch could burn an extra 100 calories each day. Nearly four carrots!!

Another thing to consider is; if using a standing desk makes you feel good and means you are more likely to feel like walking at lunch, or after work, then by all means, use a standing desk.

Although the new study suggests that a standing desk is unlikely to help with weight loss or avoiding weight gain, there MAY be other benefits of a standing desk.

  • After a meal, blood sugar levels return to normal faster on days a person spends more time standing.
  • Standing, rather than sitting, may reduce the risk of shoulder and back pain. Side note—make sure you have a proper posture assessment at your station!
  • Increased hours of sitting are linked with a higher risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

I hope the facts above help to answer your question. I’m a firm believer in “everything in moderation” (no one needs to eat four carrots!)—sit, stand, sway, walk, bounce/roll on a Swiss ball. Your next posture is your best posture.

If you’re wanting to lose weight, I’d recommend having a thorough management plan, lifestyle guidance by an allied health professional, and look at the reasons why you’re wanting to lose weight (those points will get you a lot further than purely converting to a stand-up desk!).

I’m a regular yogi at a studio in Canberra, I’ve attended twice a week for the past two years.

Unfortunately, my right wrist and left shoulder struggle after 20 minutes. Do you have any practical suggestions, so I can enjoy the class?

– Susan, 52

Hi Susan,

I am sorry to hear that your wrist and shoulder are preventing you from enjoying your regular yoga classes. Yoga is a great way to move your body, find a connection to breath and cultivate mindfulness. Yoga is all about listening to your body and taking care of yourself.

Don’t be afraid to adjust as many poses as you need in the class to suit you. Any good yoga teacher should encourage you to make changes to suit your body as ‘you are your best teacher’.

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing in the class, take the judgement and comparison away and just focus on yourself and work within your limitations.

My first suggestion would be to chat to the teacher/s at the studio and see if they can offer some suitable adjustments during the class (ie. having a fist instead of a flat palm or coming onto the elbows or providing a different posture in lieu of downward dog etc).

All yoga teachers go through a series of providing adjustments in their training to best cater to different ailments.

Some other recommendations would be:

  • Utilise suitable yoga props (ie blocks, blankets under the palm of the wrist and or knee/hand cushions to make you more comfortable and make the poses more accessible to you by reducing the range of motion at the wrist).
  • Are you also doing some specific strengthening exercises for your wrist/shoulder that may improve your tolerance to certain poses? If not, I would recommend consulting your exercise professional to arrange a suitable exercise program to compliment your yoga practice and build up to more advanced strength exercises.
  • Perhaps exploring different kinds of yoga that might suit your upper limb concerns better. For example, seated yoga classes are a great alternative as well as more gentle practices such as yin or restorative yoga that are also great for mindfulness and whole-body stretching without loading through the wrists and shoulders. This may be just short term as your pain settles or perhaps a way for you to continue your practice long term.

I hope these tips were useful to you and that you continue to love practising yoga long term.

Namaste. Kayla

Great questions everyone. I’ll answer more next week. Submit your question now to have it answered!

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