It’s hard to ignore all of the recent fuss surrounding standing desks. They seem to be all the latest rage when it comes to ergonomic solutions for working comfortably and reducing your risk of injury.
It’s no secret that there’s some pretty serious health risks associated with spending prolonged periods of time sitting down. Throughout this article, we’ll be taking a look at those risks, ways you can minimize them, and then finally help you answer that big question of “Should I get a standing desk?”
There is more and more evidence that is proving that sitting down for excessive periods of time can pose some very serious health risks, including increasing your chances of developing obesity and metabolic syndrome. It’s also been linked to an increase risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
What makes this such a prominent issue in this day and age is that many of us aren’t just spending a few hours sitting down in front of the TV in the evenings to unwind anymore—many people are also spending eight or more hours a day sitting down at work only to return home and sit around some more.
Even more alarmingly, studies have shown that even if you hit the gym and perform a vigorous exercise during the week, it doesn’t help to offset the risks associated with too much time spent sitting.
Truth be told, simply replacing sitting down with standing instead isn’t as beneficial as you might think. True, it’s often better than sitting down too much—but the main goal should be to just spend more time simply moving around.
The simple act of movement spurs important functions within your body, such as the breakdown of fats and sugars. It also helps burn calories, potentially helping you to lose weight and boost your energy levels.
When you sit down for too long, these vital functions end up stalling, leading to the increased risk of developing serious health complications.
If your job or daily routine requires you to spend extended periods sitting, there’s a few things you can do to minimize your health risks. These tips apply in equal measure whether you are sitting down to work or using a standing desk.
Again, keep in mind that the main objective is to move more. To that end, you should schedule frequent breaks to move around a bit. An ideal routine could be that for every 25 minutes of work you do, take a five minute break to stretch your muscles or go for a brief walk.
This technique is known as the ‘Pomodoro Method,’ and beyond just being beneficial for your health, many people find that it also boosts their work productivity as well!
As you can probably tell by now, just using a standing desk won’t be the one magical solution that completely eliminates the health risks involved with being stationary for too long.
However, in all honesty, it’s probably better for you than sitting down. You do end up burning more calories while you work standing up, even though it’s not a huge difference. Those burned calories end up adding up day after day though.
An analysis published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine stated that sitting time was responsible for 3.8% of all-cause mortality and that by eliminating sitting time would increase life expectancy by a fifth of a year. Not a bad start!
Several studies have shown that you burn more calories by standing than sitting, as much as 50 more calories per hour. That means a full day at work burns 400 calories, and could apparently earn yourself some non diet recking rewards such as a Peanut Butter Break or a
Cheese Lover's Snack. The jury is out on that one!
Sitting can do damage to your heart and vascular function. A study from the American Heart Association found that people who were the most sedentary were at the most risk for heart failure and coronary heart disease.
A publication in the IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors Journal suggests that standing desks can improve work productivity.
Research was conducted in a call centre and found that staff who had standing desks were almost half more productive than their sedated and seated colleagues.
The University of Queensland found that standing an extra two hours a day was associated with around a 2 percent lower average fasting blood sugar level and 11 percent lower average triglycerides in the blood. Those extra two hours standing were also attributed to lower bad cholesterol and higher good HDL cholesterol. (4)
Thus, you can add maintaining normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels to the list of potential standing desk benefits.
The same Queensland study also found that standing an additional two hours a day resulted in lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and higher good HDL cholesterol.
By standing we can maintain better posture and a neutral spine position which is almost impossible to do whilst sitting where our lower back is slumped.
There have been studies on the impact of a stand workstations on chronic low back pain where participants showed an improvement in pain after using standing desks for a number of weeks.
The true benefits of standing desks definitely require more research, as the existing research is still in the very early days.
It should be noted, however, that many people who use standing desks report that they are more likely to move around more often when compared with people who work while sitting down.
If you are concerned with the amount of time that you spend sitting down throughout the day, then we would definitely recommend that you look into a standing desk as the first step towards a healthier work lifestyle.
While it’s not as ideal as taking frequent breaks to move around more, it’s still a step in the right direction. Working at a standing desk will burn slightly more calories than sitting, it may help balance blood sugar levels after a meal quicker, and it can even help reduce shoulder and back pain—provided you stand and work with proper posture.
In all honesty, the best thing you could do for your health if you spend your days working away at a desk is to combine the main recommendations in this article. Working at a standing desk while scheduling frequent breaks to move around more often will provide you with the most benefit when it comes to reducing your health risks.
So, in our professional opinion, yes, you should get a standing desk. Just make sure you also move around.