Sitting too much is bad for your health. But those who work in a corporate organization or office have no other option but to sit in the same place for hours.
In a typical work week, people spend an average of 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at their desk and 7 hours sleeping at night, according to a 2012 study by the British Psychological Society.
The study also found that those who sit longer at work are more likely to sit outside of work, and the more time one spends sitting at work was associated with a decrease in mental well-being.
Given the drawbacks of too much of sitting, health experts advise office workers to get up and move around from time to time. However, it is not always easy to just walk away from the task at hand.
One good solution is a standing desk, which is growing in popularity as workers and managers are increasingly aware of the costs of poor health due to sedentary lifestyles. A standing desk or stand-up desk is a type of desk where you can write, read or work on your computer or laptop while standing up or sitting on a high stool.
Using a standing desk helps reduce the amount of time spent sitting during the workday. Get one installed at your office and your body will thank you for taking this step.
Here are some of the key benefits of using a standing desk.
1. Prevents Obesity
Standing more than sitting in a day can help you to burn more calories, according to some studies. Burning more calories than you eat is the secret behind having a healthy body weight.
This is one reason that health experts recommend using a standing desk at work rather than the traditional desk and chair. Sitting longer is strongly linked to obesity and metabolic disease.
A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that use of standing desks in a classroom can cause a significant increase in calorie expenditure.
A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health also concludes that a simple change in classroom furniture can slow the increase in elementary school children’s body mass index (BMI), a key indicator of obesity, by an average of 5.24 percentile points.
However, there is not yet consensus on this matter. Another 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health reports that standing for 15 minutes versus sitting for 15 minutes only resulted in burning about two extra calories. However, substituting periods of sitting with standing may not affect energy expenditure.
2. Reduces Cancer Risk
Lack of physical activity can increase one’s risk for various types of cancer. It is not clear as to why sitting appears to increase cancer risk, but it’s possible that sitting for long hours increases the level of C-reactive protein in people, which may be the reason behind it.
A 2015 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention found that spending more leisure time sitting was associated with a higher risk of total cancer risk in women, and specifically with multiple myeloma, breast and ovarian cancers. The higher risk was present even after taking into account BMI, physical activity and other factors.
However, the study did not find any association between sitting time and cancer risk in men.
3. Ensures Longer Life
If you’re among those who sit for several hours at a stretch, standing more may help you live longer. Standing ensures that your body is involved in some kind of physical activity, which in turn reduces the risk of different types of diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
A 2012 study published in Diabetologia found that sedentary time is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Moreover, the strength of the association is most consistent for diabetes.
Another 2012 study published in the BMJ Open found that by reducing sedentary behaviors, such as sitting and watching television, one can increase their life expectancy in the United States.
A 2016 analysis published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine examined 54 surveys on sitting time and found that sitting more than three hours per day was responsible for 3.8 percent of all-cause mortality (about 433,000 deaths in a year) among 54 countries.
Researchers concluded that reducing sitting time and promoting an active lifestyle can help stave off premature death.
4. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels
Always remember that excessive sedentary time is linked to a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes.
By using a standing desk, you can help clear the sugar from your blood better than while sitting. In fact, it is a simple way to prevent the sudden spikes in blood sugar levels after meals, which is bad for your health.
A 2014 study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating postprandial glycemic excursion.
Another 2014 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that alternating bouts of sitting and standing attenuate postprandial glucose responses in overweight and obese office workers.
A 2015 report from a study by the University of Queensland concludes that an extra two hours a day spent standing rather than sitting was associated with approximately 2 percent lower average fasting blood sugar levels and 11 percent lower average triglycerides (fats in the blood).
5. Improves Posture and Fights Pain
Sitting at your desk for long hours can cause poor posture as well as pain in your neck and back. To improve your posture and reduce pain, a standing desk is very effective.
The simple act of standing improves core strength, which in turn leads to better posture. Also, if you install a standing desk and keep your computer screen just above resting eye level, you do not have to hunch over or slouch to work on your computer.
A 2009 study published in Humane Factors reports that implementing a sit-stand workstation paradigm can be an effective workplace health intervention to reduce musculoskeletal complaints.
A 2014 study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that transitioning from a seated to a standing work posture every 30 minutes throughout the workday, relative to seated work, led to a significant reduction in fatigue levels and lower back discomfort in overweight and obese office workers.
6. Boosts Productivity
A standing workstation can also improve productivity at work, according to a 2016 study published in IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors.
The study compared objective productivity between workers who use a stand-capable desk and a seated control group in a call center over six months. Some 167 employees were used in this study.
After six months, it was found that workers with desks that allowed for standing were about 45 percent more productive on a daily basis than workers who remained seated.
Tips to Maximize the Benefits of a Standing Desk
Start slow to help your body adjust to the change. If you suddenly go from sitting all day to standing all day, you can suffer from back, leg or foot pain. So, if you used to sit for six hours, change it to five hours and slowly continue to reduce your sitting time.
While sitting too much is very bad for your health, standing for too long can put a strain on your legs. Hence, it is recommended to alternate between sitting and standing. For every one hour of sitting, you should try standing for an equal amount of time.
When using a standing desk, you must adjust your desk and computer screen as per your height. This will ensure comfort and prevent strain on your eyes as well as your back.
To deal with standing fatigue, invest in an anti-fatigue mat. These mats encourage subtle movements of leg muscles to ensure proper blood flow.
If using a computer on your standing desk, change your keyboard and mouse positions to reduce strain on your wrists. Also, consider using an arm support that helps reduce pressure on the wrist while operating the mouse.
Even if you are using a standing desk, remember to take regular breaks to move and stretch. This also helps clear your head and give your tired eyes some much-needed rest.
If you find standing too distracting for your work, use your sitting times when you need that extra concentration.
If your health permits, you can opt for a “treadmill desk” that allows you to work on a computer or video conference while walking on a treadmill.
When using a standing desk, be sure to wear comfortable shoes.