Active Anti-Fatigue Mats are the standing desk users' secret weapon!
I spend the majority of my working life sitting down. Working in a small office has its benefits - my team sits behind me, so I can swivel my chair round and shuffle to the meeting table (still seated), I park right outside the building, so I don’t have far to walk to my desk, and although I do try and take a walk at lunchtime. Living in England though, the weather can be so atrocious that quite often it’s the last thing I want to do. So it’s lunch at the desk.
Although I consider myself active, (gym and swimming 4 or 5 times a week, and longer walks at the weekends). Reading up on the evidence makes for sobering reading. It seems that even frequent bouts of intense exercise won’t necessarily counteract the harm caused by sitting for most of my working day. I realised something had to be done.
While I appreciate there are many, many jobs out there which require employees to stand while working, and they just get on with it without complaining - or maybe have a few tricks and tips to help with getting tired – there’s no denying the anti-fatigue mat industry is booming.
Without sounding like an office-based softie - for me, standing for long periods of time (sometimes not even that long) comes with its own set of problems. My knees ache, my ankles swell and quite often I get aches in my hips and lower back.
Of course, not everyone will have a propensity towards these problems, and I do have a tendency to lock my knees when standing still - they ache after just 10 minutes of ironing – just one of the many reasons I avoid that chore.
Occasionally I do have a long day of standing, this is usually when working on the stand at a trade show. On those days I end up exhausted, with aching back, knees and hips, not forgetting the 'cankles' (ankles the size of calves). Which I certainly don’t suffer from after a long walk, even if I’m on my feet for the same amount of time.
This led me to think what the effects of the different types of ‘being on my feet all day’ have on my wellbeing.
Standing still all day – causes aches, pains and swelling
Walking all day – maybe a few blisters, a bit achy the next day
Sitting still all day – doesn’t hurt, but could possibly shorten life
I could walk and work – treadmill desks are a thing, cycling desks are a thing. But honestly I’d find that so embarrassing! It might be ok if you worked from home, or you worked in a super-cool office full of fitness freaks and everyone had one, or you weren’t British… (how on earth would you drink a cup of tea?!)
Also, I hate white noise, so I think I would find a desk whirring away very irritating.
So if I am going to stand all day I’ll need a happy medium. Something to remove or lessen the aches and pains. This is where an active anti-fatigue mat comes in - AFS-TEX Active Anti-Fatigue Mats have been ergonomically designed to fill this gap - more than just an anti-fatigue mat, these are designed as ‘active’ anti-fatigue mats, which means they are designed to encourage you to regularly shift leg and foot position, as well as being really comfortable and supportive underfoot. Some versions have a raised ‘ergo bar’ which you can use for stretching the legs, and massaging the ball of the foot, as well as adding another area to stand.
I went from sitting all day at work (8.30am-5pm) to standing all day (no easy break-in period for me, though I believe you’re supposed to start doing 2 hours a day and build up), and I can honestly say that it’s been a revelation!
I have not experienced any swelling of my ankles, my knees and hips don’t ache at all and my feet are comfortable for the whole day. I have used the mats with flat shoes and with bare feet and I do prefer to work without shoes (it’s getting warm now and the mat feels cool on my feet).
I have tried out the System 2000, System 3000 and the System 5000, using them all day, every working day over a period of 4 weeks and I found them all incredibly comfortable, especially compared to standing on the floor.
If I had to choose, I must admit I keep returning to the System 5000 as I really like its shape – it looks like more than ‘just a mat’, it is so comfortable, and the raised sides make me change position without really noticing I’m doing it. However when I work from home, I take the 2000 as it’s a little smaller and so more portable - I don’t have a standing desk at home, I use the kitchen counter instead.
If my feet start to get a little tired, it’s really nice to give them a quick stretch on the raised sides of the System 5000 mat and on the ergo bar at the back. If I do stand still for too long, I notice it a lot sooner now, and quickly shift my weight and foot position which quickly alleviates it.
I was worried I would go home tired out, but I am pleased to report that come 5pm I am not at all exhausted - despite ‘being on my feet all day’ – so the anti-fatigue part of the active anti fatigue mat is definitely doing its part. Though I must say that I have been achieving some excellent sleep throughout the night! I usually am a terrible sleeper, getting about 5 hours a night, but I am up to 7 hours a night after just a few weeks of using a standing desk, so it’s pleasing that I get the benefits of a good night’s sleep too.
If you have a standing desk, I highly recommend the AFS-TEX range of anti-fatigue mats - they are the perfect desk companion and worth every penny.