Not so long ago the concept of a standing desk was quite a curious thing, but now as it becomes more widely accepted, praised and tested, we are witnessing an almighty surge in the production of height adjustable desks and converters.
You may have been warned that sitting is the new smoking and whilst we agree that being in a seat for most of your day is not what your body needs to stay fit and healthy, we wanted to take a balanced view of the benefits of standing desks. According to Science Daily, the average office worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes sitting each day at his or her desk, so if you open your mind to the possibilities of standing instead, there will need to be some big shifts in your workspace.
1. Lowers Your Risk of Weight Gain and Obesity
Obesity researcher James Levine who claims that “chairs are lethal”, proves through his study, that prolonged periods of sitting will slow down your metabolism and promote fat accumulation. So by simply standing up periodically while you work, you’ll decrease your risk of obesity.
Even though standing isn’t necessarily a form of exercise, choosing to stand over sitting will help you burn a few more calories. One study showed that you will burn around 170 extra calories by standing, which over the course of a week would equate to nearly 1,000 additional calories burned. Dr. John Buckley computes that this “would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year. Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work.”
If you are in need of an extra challenge, invest in a balance board to accompany your desk, which will allow you to shift your weight and keep your joints more fluid.
2. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
A study from Australia found that standing an extra two hours per day over sitting, decreased average fasting blood sugar levels by about 2%. Generally speaking, the more your blood sugar levels increase after meals, the worse it is for your health. In another study, standing for 3 hours after lunch reduced the blood sugar spike by 43% compared to sitting for the same amount of time. If standing for that length of time sounds daunting, another study found that alternating between standing and sitting every 30 minutes throughout the workday reduced blood sugar spikes by 11.1% on average.
3. Reduce the risk of chronic disease
Don’t sit around a wait for heart disease, diabetes or a stroke to hit. Studies have connected being sedentary for prolonged periods of time with everything from increased risk of cancer to obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neck pain. Which is not great news for the millions of us around the globe with a desk job.
The idea that standing is better for heart health was first proposed in 1953. A study found that bus conductors who stood all day had half the risk of heart disease-related deaths as the drivers. Since then, scientists have developed a much greater understanding of the effects of sitting on heart health, with prolonged sedentary time thought to increase the risk of heart disease by nearly 150%.
There is no doubt that spending more time on your feet is beneficial for heart health. Scientists are saying that even an hour of intense exercise may not make up for the negative effects of an entire day spent sitting. So the more you stand, the lower your risk of developing heart disease. So get up and get moving if you want to avoid this number one killer.
4. Boost productivity
We have seen that standing desks will improve circulation, meaning more oxygen to your brain, keeping you focused and with better brain function. This will feed your help you avoid mental fatigue. Also by standing, you are engaging your whole body, including your mind. This increased energy will help with concentration and creativity.
Research published in IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors has suggested that working at a standing desk benefits productivity. The findings revealed that workers with desks that allow for standing were about 45 percent more productive on a daily basis than those who remained seated. Another study by researchers at Texas A&M University’s Health Science Center School of Public Health also found that standing desks improve productivity.
5. Reduce Back Pain
Back pain is the most common complaint of sedentary workers. By investing in a standing desk you will be able to achieve your perfect postural position which will help to alleviate those symptoms. A study by the CDC found that use of a sit-stand desk reduced upper back and neck pain by 54% after just 4 weeks.
As long as you are making a conscious effort to engage your inner abdominal muscles, standing gives you a better posture which builds core strength, almost exercise in disguise. Should you start to feel the burn, then make sure you take a break to avoid having to lean or slump whilst stood.
6. Improve Mood and Energy Levels
Standing-to-work will release endorphins, giving you a natural high, making the work environment a more enjoyable experience and helping you to feel happier throughout the day.
As standing desks appear to have a positive influence on overall well-being, it is no wonder that they have been scientifically proven to lift your mood and energy levels. In one study it was noted that less stress and fatigue in participants using standing desks than those who remained seated the entire workday. Additionally, nearly 90% of those using standing desks reported increased vigor and energy. These findings align with broader research on sitting and mental health, which links sedentary time with an increased risk of both depression and anxiety.
7. May Help You Live Longer
Studies have found a strong link between increased sitting time and premature death, so is it not surprising that people are switching to standing desks in an attempt to live longer, healthier lives. A recent study showed that those who sit the most are at a 49% greater risk of dying early than those who sit the least. Another study estimated that reducing sitting time to 3 hours per day would raise the average American’s life expectancy by 2 years. While these observational studies are not watertight, they do indicate that standing more often may lower the risk of dying early and therefore help you achieve longevity.
Increase your life expectancy even further by combining standing with a simple exercise such as walking. You may want to also try different desk exercises to maintain and promote health whilst preventing chronic disease. This could be truly life-saving with minimum effort required.
Overall, there seem to be only positive experiences when it comes to using a standing desk, so assess your workspace and see how you can start to implement some changes for the greater good. Do remember though to ease in gradually, increasing your standing time each day, once you feel comfortable and confident. Make sure your workspace is also properly aligned for the best ergonomic fit, this will help to ease any stresses and strains on joints. Keep as fluid as you can, avoid standing perfectly still or locking your knees and ensure that your weight is evenly distributed throughout both feet as you move around. It would also be a good idea to invest in a comfortable pair of shoes or a standing mat, that will help to further improve your posture and core strength.
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- Birgit Wallmann-Sperlich. Who uses height-adjustable desks? – Sociodemographic, health-related, and psycho-social variables of regular users. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14: 26
- Nicolaas P. Pronk. Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project, 2011
- 1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/too-much-sitting-linked-to-an-early-death-201401297004
- 1. Kimberley L. Way et al. The Effect of Regular Exercise on Insulin Sensitivity in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Diabetes Metab J. 2016 Aug; 40(4): 253–271.
This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Marija Petkovic.