Are Standing Desks Really Better for Your Back?
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Are Standing Desks Really Better for Your Back?

Those prone to pain might get more relief if they invest in these accessories—from anti-fatigue mats to a posture monitor.

By Sal Vaglica
Thu, Feb 10, 2022 3:38pmGrey Clock 3 min

Doctors, no fans of sedentary lifestyles, rarely encourage anyone—especially those with back pain—to spend all day sitting. A standing desk can help avert aching muscles if you use it correctly, get off your feet and move at regular intervals and—here’s where we come in—consider investing in the right ergonomic accessories. If you insist on slouching in high heels on a concrete floor for hours, we can’t help you.

A standing desk alone is a good start. In 2019, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined data from 53 independent, peer-reviewed studies and concluded that workers can experience a decrease in lower-back pain when using a standing desk. A year earlier, Dr. Elizabeth Garland, professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and her team published the results of a yearlong evaluation of users at standing and traditional desks. “The people who used the standing desk more had less back pain, more energy and took on more physical activity outside of work,” she said.

Jonathan Perez, a territory manager for a sporting goods supplier in Port St. Lucie, Fla., went further. Mr. Perez has mild scoliosis and bought a standing desk hoping it would help. Two years on, the pain persists, but a new routine has made it far more tolerable. “I bought an anti-fatigue mat, got my foot scanned at a running store to get sized for shoes and consulted a yoga instructor about core stretches,” he said. Those moves, along with a commitment to alternating between standing, sitting and using a foam roller on the floor to massage his back, have brought relief.

Lauren Scott, a digital marketing coordinator in Hawthorne, N.J., said using a standing desk consistently for five years eventually helped resolve sciatica pain. But when she stands, Ms. Scott doesn’t merely stay erect. A barefoot enthusiast, she plants her feet on a foam mat for comfort and uses a lacrosse ball and knobby rock mat to stretch them.

Without an ergonomic plan, standing can become uncomfortable, making it easy to default back to a chair. Some basic tips: Keep the desk’s top at elbow height so your fingers hang down to meet the keyboard. Stand straight so your neck is tall and shoulders are relaxed. Elevate the monitor so the top third of the screen is at eye level and close enough that you needn’t lean forward to read. As for how to split up your day, Dr. Garland likes the “20-8-2 rule” where you break 30-minute blocks up into 20 minutes for sitting, 8 for standing and 2 for walking.

But if you really want to ensure you’re standing up to back pain, consider these accessories.

Five Accessories That Can Take a Desk From Helpful to Really Helpful

Stand On Solid Principles

An anti-fatigue mat will take the sting out of standing on hard surfaces like concrete, hardwood and tile. While most mats look like the slabs of rubber or polyurethane foam that line cooks use, the Fluidstance Springboard looks at home in an office. The flexible plywood top, along with a 1-inch-thick felt base, provides enough cushion and bounce to reduce fatigue and encourage you to shift weight. $235,

Mind the Slouch

If reminding yourself not to slouch feels like a full-time job, let the Upright Go S do it for you. Stick the tracker to the skin between your shoulder blades, or drape it over a shirt using the Necklace accessory ($20). When it detects hunching, a gentle vibration prompts you to straighten up. To avoid falling into that “evil-witch position,” consider an elevated monitor, said Dr. Charla R. Fischer, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Spine Center. $

Bare Your Tensions

A mat alternative: The sloped Sky Solutions Genius Mat can massage and stretch bare feet, thanks to a rollerball and acupressure-like nubs. “What we’re learning is the more time we can spend out of shoes the better,” said Dr. Brian Meenan, a chiropractor in Pittsburgh, of foot muscles that can go underdeveloped in shoes. If you go this route, gradually work up to spending about half your day sans shoes. $111,

Look Up

You could pile books under a monitor to elevate it, or use the highly adjustable Uplift Desk Enfield Single Monitor Arm and reclaim desk space. The arm clamps to, or bolts through, the desktop, neatly corralling wires, and lets you tweak the screen’s position as you go from sitting to standing. (Laptop users need an arm designed to lift the computer to eye level, and should pair it with a wireless keyboard and mouse.) $165,

Invest in Smarter Sneakers

The best footwear for standing-desk adoptees is a sneaker that provides more cushion and support than a minimalist running shoe but not as much as a plush walking sneaker. Chiropractor Dr. Alex Tauberg, also based in Pittsburgh, often recommends a trail hiking or trail running shoe. “They have an athletic styling, a decent amount of cushion, and they’re supportive,” he said. The Altra Superior 5 is a “zero drop” shoe — the foot rests flat on the ground without the lifted heel — with a wide toe box that allows your dogs to splay out without bunching.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: February 9, 2022.


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Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch

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Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.

When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.

“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.

With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.

Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lotsdealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.

“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”

Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.

Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.

“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.

A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.

A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”

At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.

Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.

“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.

While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.

The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.

“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.

There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.

Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.

Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.

Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”

Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.

“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”

Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.

“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.

Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.

Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.

While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.

“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.

It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.

“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.


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