Standing desks have been growing in popularity for the past few years, and you probably have a few coworkers that like to knock out reports at their standing desk or even catch up on their e-mails on the company’s treadmill desk.
This is because we’ve become more familiar with the health risks associated with our modern sedentary lifestyle. Numerous studies have linked prolonged periods of sitting with increased risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.
This is a major concern for office workers who have to sit for long hours in order to complete their tasks. What’s worse is that regular exercise doesn’t seem to counteract these negative effects. But what if we didn’t have to sit for hours and hours every day? What are the benefits of using a standing desk? Let’s find out.
If you have to sit at your desk all day, you’ve probably experienced some sort of back pain. In fact, back pain is one of the most common complaints among office workers. Sitting for such a long time strains the muscles and discs of your spine and can even lead to disc damage. To determine if standing desks can reduce back pain, several studies have been conducted.
One 2014 study published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal fond that standing desks reduced back pain by 32% after several weeks, while another study published by the CDC reported a 54% reduction after only four weeks. Moreover, it seems that removing the standing desk reversed improvements within a period of 2 weeks.
If you have back pain and have been considering switching to a standing desk, we recommend that you start by alternating between sitting and standing for short periods. It’s better to take the time to adjust so you can avoid bad posture. In the beginning, you could stand for a maximum of 20 minutes every hour. Using a sit-stand desk and a leaning chair can help you alternate between sitting and standing more easily.
Risk Of Heart Disease
Researchers have been examining the health benefits of standing for over 60 years. One study from 1953 found that bus conductors that stood all day had 50% less risk of heart disease-related deaths than the bus drivers who spent most of their day sitting.
Since then, we’ve had more time to look at the effects prolonged sitting has on the health of the heart, and a meta-analysis of 18 studies with nearly 800,000 participants supports the findings of the 1953 study: a sedentary lifestyle is thought to increase the risk of developing heart disease by 147%.
Blood Sugar Levels
While it’s normal to see an increase in blood sugar levels after having a meal, large spikes are indicative of insulin resistance and a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Essentially, this means that the more your blood sugar level increases after you eat, the worse it is for your health.
A 2013 study on 10 office workers found that standing for 180 minutes after having lunch reduced the participant’s blood sugar spike by 43% compared to the control group that spent the same amount of time sitting. All participants wore pedometers, which showed that they took the same amount of steps, suggesting that the difference was due to standing and not additional physical movements.
Another study examined the effects of alternating between standing and sitting for 30 –minute increments on a group of 23 overweight office workers. Diet and physical activity were monitored to ensure it doesn’t interfere with the results. Researchers found that these conditions reduced sugar spikes by an average of 11.1%.
Weight Gain And Obesity
Although a standing desk does not replace the benefits of exercising regularly and following a healthy diet, it does help you burn more calories. Since we know that weight gain ultimately results from taking in more calories than you burn, alternating between sitting and standing at your desk can help you lose weight. Approximately 45% of office workers report that they have gained weight during their current job, and more than half of them believe it’s due to having to sit all day.
A small 2013 study published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal found that an afternoon of work performed at a standing desk burned 170 more calories. This might not seem like much, since walking for 20 minutes burns about 100 calories, but it adds up to 850 calories in a week.
As we said, a standing desk does not replace exercise. Still, we know that sitting for extended amounts of time slows down your metabolism, so a standing desk can help you make the most of your workout routine.
Improve Mood And Energy Levels
It seems counterintuitive, but sitting makes you feel more tired than standing. In fact, from the studies we have so far, it seems that standing desks have a positive influence on both energy levels and mood. Since anxiety and depression rates have been on the rise, especially among people with a sedentary lifestyle, this might be the most important incentive for companies to equip their offices with standing desks. A 2011 study found that participants who used standing desks over a 7-week period reported less stress and fatigue than the control groups.
The “Take-a-Stand Project” provided 24 office workers with a standing desk and found that a reduction in time spent sitting of 66 minutes resulted in better mood after 4 weeks. 87% of participants said they felt more energized, 62% happier, and 33% less stressed. Moreover, upon returning to their traditional desks, overall mood levels reverted to original levels.
These results match broader studies examining the effects of sedentary lifestyles on mental health. It’s encouraging to see that something as simple as having the option to stand at work can have such a significant impact on mood and energy levels.
A major concern among people interested in shifting to a standing desk is the impact it will have on their productivity. The fear is that it will hinder activities such as typing, resulting in lower output.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society involving 60 office employees found no difference regarding the number of typed characters per minute or the rate of typing errors.
Even if at the beginning of this article you might have thought that standing while working might decrease productivity, after going through all the studies that highlight the benefits, you can see how it’s quite the opposite. Since standing desks improve energy levels and mood, they raise productivity rather than hinder it.
If you are interested in even more lifestyle-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.