Sit-Stand Desks

What do you think?

The Ups And Downs Of Sit-Stand Desks, Eurekalert, 12 March 2019

[The review] examines the effects of a sit-stand desk [SSD] in the following domains: behavior, physiological, work performance, psychological, discomfort, and posture.

“The study found only minimal impacts on any of those areas, the strongest being changes in behavior and discomfort,” said Baker [professor of occupational therapy at Tufts University].

Their work showed that use of a SSD effectively got participants to sit less and stand more and that the device made users more comfortable at work. However, many frustrations with SSDs stem from the physiological outcomes. Early adopters were fed the idea that these desks would be the miracle cure for obesity, but users were not achieving the results they expected. According to the review, physiological effects were the most studied, but within that domain, there were no significant results with regards to obesity.

“There are health benefits to using sit-stand desks, such as a small decrease in blood pressure or low back pain relief, but people simply are not yet burning enough calories to lose weight with these devices,”

Chambers [lead author, professor of bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering] noted that the current research is limited because many of studies were done with young and healthy subjects who were asked to use the desk for a week or month at most. Since some of the significant benefits are with cardiovascular health or muscle discomfort, it may be beneficial to perform additional studies with middle-aged or overweight workers.

The Effect Of Sit-stand Desks On Office Worker Behavioral And Health Outcomes: A Scoping Review, Applied Ergonomics, January 2019

Apple Cinnamon Squares

This is another way of cooking my Applesauce Spice Loaf (vegan, low-fat). I like this better. I made some minor tweaks to the recipe but the biggest change is that sweetened cinnamon topping. It’s amazing what a small change can do.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 tablespoons warm water

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar

1 3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup almond milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of diced raw apple pieces, skin on

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom and sides of an 8×8 inch square pan. Place the parchment-lined pan into the oven to preheat.

Mix flax seed and water. Set aside.

Mix cinnamon and sugar topping. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.

In another large bowl combine applesauce, almond milk, maple syrup, vinegar, and flax mixture. Whisk until blended.

Remove pan from oven and place on hob or trivet.

Add wet to dry. Stir just until you see no dry flour. Don’t over-blend. Fold in apple pieces. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle topping.

Bake for 50 minutes. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes then remove (by holding parchment corners) and place on cooling rack for at least an hour before slicing. Makes 16 squares. Freezes well. A 15-second-microwave-blast right before eating does wonders 🙂

Into the freezer…

This recipe also makes good muffins. The only thing that changes is the oven temperature and cooking time. I set it high, 400 or I might try 420 next time, and bake for 8 minutes then turn the temperature down to 375 for an additional 16 minutes (24 minutes total cooking time). The oven probably won’t recover in those 8 minutes but that’s OK, it will still be hot enough to give the muffins a nice oven spring.

How To Strengthen Abdominals Without Injuring The Back

In the very beginning of this video, Dr. McGill* is using a simulator to create a disc herniation by merely flexing and bending a spine repeatedly, in a movement that resembles a sit-up. The rest of the video shows how to perform his 3 basic exercises for strengthening the abdominal muscles without injuring the back (modified curl-up, bird dog, side plank).

Here he is discussing myths about exercise. Did you know that sucking in your stomach is harmful? It can cause the spine to buckle (a sideways deflection).

He says that a flexible back or a strong back are not protective of back injury. In fact, they are associated with more injury. The muscles of the back are meant to stabilize, to prevent movement. This is true for abdominal muscles and others of the core or torso. However, since back and stomach muscles are in constant use, they need to be maintained to provide endurance.

Here’s another video showing McGill’s “Big 3” exercises for stabilizing the back:

Bird Dog
Modified Curl-up
Side Plank

What I am learning – over the years! because this just isn’t sinking in – is that repetitive motion is not your friend, especially if it is done with weights. It damages wrists, elbows, necks, knees, and backs. The above three exercises are low-impact and non-repetitive.

* Dr. Stuart McGill is a professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo where he taught for 32 years. His research involved how the back functions, how it becomes injured, how to prevent injury, how to rehabilitate an injured back, and how to enhance athletic performance. His clients include professional athletes. He currently serves on the editorial boards for the journals Clinical Biomechanics, Applied Biomechanics, and Spine, and is the author of several books.

Average After-Tax Income By State

I saw this map and I thought these figures were high.

Source for map. Source for data.

I live in Pennsylvania. The median household income for Pennsylvania, before-taxes, was $59,195 in 2017.

I found the following about how much tax is paid from that $59,195:

How Much Is Generally Taken From My Paycheck In Pennsylvania?, Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 22 August 2018

Employees are subject to payroll taxes at the federal, state and local levels. The standard federal payroll taxes apply to residents of all states. This includes federal withholding tax based on the employee’s W-4; Social Security tax, which is calculated as 6.2 percent of wages, and subject to a wage ceiling; and Medicare tax, which is calculated at 1.45 percent of wages, without a wage ceiling.

At the Pennsylvania state level, an employee is subject to two payroll taxes: Pennsylvania state withholding at a flat 3.07 percent of wages, and the Pennsylvania unemployment tax at a flat 0.06 percent of wages.

At the local level, the payroll withholding tax depends upon the employee’s residency and the jurisdiction of his or her employer. For example, a resident of Philadelphia who works in Philadelphia will have local withholding tax of 3.8907 percent; whereas a resident of a Bucks County suburb who works in Bucks County may have a local withholding rate between 0.5 percent and 1.0 percent.

Based on the two aforementioned examples, a Philadelphia-based resident and employee making $70,000, who falls in the 15 percent federal tax bracket, will have about $20,800 withheld in taxes. An employee fitting the same criteria but living and working in a Bucks County suburb, will have about $18,800 withheld in taxes.

That’s about 30%. This next source says 31.3%.

The Average U.S. Worker Pays over $16,000 in Income and Payroll Taxes, Tax Foundation, June 2014

The average U.S. worker faces a tax burden of 31.3 percent. This includes both income taxes and payrolls taxes. Between these two types of taxes, the average U.S. workers pays over $16,000 in taxes on their labor.

The tax burden is a combination of income taxes at the federal, state, and local levels as well as the employee and the employer payroll taxes. Of the 31.3 percent tax burden, 15.4 percent is due to income taxes and 15.9 percent is due to payroll taxes, over half of which is paid by the employer on the employee’s behalf. (Workers pay the cost of the employer-side payroll taxes through lower wages.)

In total, the average worker pays $8,196 in income taxes and $8,462 in payroll taxes, which are meant to fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

In the absence of the $16,658 in taxes and any benefits they provide, the average worker would take home $53,223 in income, as opposed to the current after-tax income of $36,564 for the average worker.

There are a lot of variations in these numbers! But if I apply a gross 30% tax burden to that PA median household income of $59,195 I get $41,436. The average or median take-home pay in PA is about $41,436.

That’s quite a bit lower than the $53,453 in the map above. It’s also not a lot of money to live on when you consider the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, housing, education, and transportation.

Mental Health Is As Important As Physical Health

If we want a healthy body, we can eat well and exercise. If we want a healthy mind, well-being, we can likewise learn and apply techniques that foster it. Mental health, like physical health, doesn’t just happen on its own. It needs our attention.

I have been researching meditation and mindfulness. A lot of what I learned years ago has come flooding back, both the knowledge and how it feels in my body. A lot has changed. The science is better.

Here’s Jon Kabat-Zinn describing the benefits of meditation and mindfulness with a scientific angle that appeals to me. I must say, there is a lot of hocus-pocus online about meditation. It’s not about holding your body in some particular way, your fingers just so. It’s not about emptying your mind. It’s not about breathing a certain way. All of these things can be helpful but none of them are required.