Research shows that people who sit a lot every day have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and early death. Additionally, sitting all the time burns very few calories, and many studies have linked it to weight gain and obesity. This is a major problem for office workers because they sit down for most of the day.
What is a Standing Desk?
Here are 8 benefits of using a standing desk, that are supported by science.
1. Standing Lowers Your Risk of Weight Gain and Obesity
Weight gain is ultimately caused by taking in more calories than you can burn. Conversely, burning more calories than you take in results in weight loss. While exercise is the most effective way to burn calories quickly, simply choosing to stand instead of sitting can also be beneficial. In fact, when compared to an afternoon of sedentary work, an equal amount of time spent standing has been shown to burn over 170 additional calories.
That’s almost 1000 extra calories burned each week from simply standing at your desk each afternoon. This caloric difference could be one of the reasons why sitting longer is so strongly linked to obesity and metabolic disease.
2. Using a Standing Desk May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Usually, the more your blood sugar levels increase after meals, the worse it is for your health. This is especially true for those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. In a small study of 10 office workers, standing for 180 minutes after lunch reduced the blood sugar spike by 43% compared to sitting for the same amount of time. Both groups took the same number of steps, indicating that the smaller spike was due to standing rather than additional physical movements around the office.
Another study involving 23 office workers found that alternating between standing and sitting every 30 minutes throughout the workday reduced blood sugar spikes by 11.1% on average. The harmful effects of sitting after meals could help explain why excessive sedentary time is linked to a whopping 112% greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
3. Standing May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
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 their colleagues in the driver’s seats. 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 up to 147%.
It is so harmful that even an hour of intense exercise may not make up for the negative effects of an entire day spent sitting. There is no doubt that spending more time on your feet is beneficial for heart health.
4. Standing Desks Improve Posture and Appear to Reduce Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common complaints of office workers who sit all day. To determine if standing desks could improve this, several studies have been done on employees with long-term back pain. Participants have reported up to a 32% improvement in lower back pain after several weeks of using standing desks.
Another study published by the CDC found that use of a sit-stand desk reduced upper back and neck pain by 54% after just 4 weeks. Additionally, removal of the electric sit-stand desks reversed some of those improvements within a 2-week period.
5. Standing Desks Help Improve Mood and Energy Levels
Standing desks appear to have a positive influence on overall well-being. In one 7-week study, participants using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue than those who remained seated the entire workday. Additionally, 87% of those using standing desks reported increased vigour and energy throughout the day. Upon returning to their old desks, overall moods reverted to their original levels.
These findings align with broader research on sitting and mental health, which links sedentary time with an increased risk of both depression and anxiety.
6. Standing Desks May Even Boost Productivity
A common concern about standing desks is that they hinder daily tasks, such as typing. While standing each afternoon may take some getting used to, standing desks appear to have no significant impact on typical work tasks. In a study of 60 young office employees, using a standing desk for 4 hours each day had no impact on characters typed per minute or typing errors. Considering that standing improves mood and energy as well, using a standing desk is more likely to boost productivity rather than hinder it.
7. Develop a Positive Attitude
When you are refreshed you feel good, and it has a positive impact on your overall mental state. You are likely to feel happy about whatever you are doing and look at tasks in a positive frame of mind. Further to this your positivity is contagious to those around you!
8. Standing More May Help You Live Longer
Studies have found a strong link between increased sitting time and early death. This is not surprising given the strong association between sedentary time, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. In fact, a review of 18 studies found those who sit the most are at a 49% greater risk of dying early than those who sit the least.
An article in The Wall Street Journal features another study that estimating that reducing sitting time to 3 hours per day would raise the average life expectancy by 2 years. While these observational studies do not prove cause and effect, the weight of evidence indicates standing more often could help lengthen our lifespan.
It’s Time to Take a Stand!
Reducing sedentary time can improve physical, metabolic, and even mental health. Therefore, sitting less and standing more is such an important lifestyle change. If you want to try this out, then our Worksphere range of products as well as our sit-stand desks can be found to purchase online. If you plan to start using a standing desk, it’s recommended you split your time 50-50 between standing and sitting.
6 Tips to Use a Standing Desk Correctly
Standing desks have become very popular. Early studies show they can be highly beneficial for health and productivity, and this is especially true with versions that adjust between standing and sitting. However, there are no clear guidelines about the best ways to use a standing desk. This article gives you 6 tips for using a standing desk correctly which will help you maximize the benefits and minimize the negative effects.
1. Alternate Between Sitting and Standing
There’s no doubt that sitting too much is very bad for your health. However, that certainly does not mean you should stand all day instead!
Studies have found strong associations between lower back pain and standing occupations, such as bank tellers and production line employees. Standing still for long periods is also thought to negatively affect your leg muscles, tendons and other connective tissue, and may even cause varicose veins. Fortunately, this can be avoided by simply alternating between sitting and standing.
The research is still in its early stages, but a ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 sitting versus standing time appears to be optimal for comfort and energy levels, without affecting productivity. That means for every 1 to 2 hours you sit in your office, 1 hour should be spent standing. Try to alternate between sitting and standing every 30 to 60 minutes.
2. Adjust Your Desk and Screen
Correct desk height and computer screen position are fundamental for improving comfort and minimizing injury risk in the office. To begin, set your standing desk at about elbow height. This means your elbows should be in a 90-degree position from the floor.
As a guide, the average 5’11” (180 cm) person would have their desk about 44 inches (111 cm) high. Recommendations for screen position are not black and white, but the general consensus is to have it 20–28 inches (51–71 cm) from your face. As a quick reference, the distance should be no less than from the tip of your middle finger to your elbow.
The top of your screen should be eye level, with a small upwards tilt of between 10 and 20 degrees. The idea is that you should never need to tilt your neck up or down.
If you're using a laptop, try to align the keyboard with your elbow height. However, this forces you to tilt the screen back and your neck downwards, which is not ideal for long-term use.
3. Purchase an Anti-Fatigue Mat
Anti-fatigue mats are commonly used in jobs that require extended periods of standing, such as working on a product line or at a counter. These mats reportedly combat standing fatigue by encouraging subtle movements of your leg muscles. This improves blood flow and reduces overall discomfort.
Studies show that people who stand for 2 or more hours per day report less discomfort and tiredness when using anti-fatigue mats. The mats also help with leg problems and lower back pain. If you experience leg or lower back pain from standing, then anti-fatigue mats could be very useful.
4. Change Your Keyboard and Mouse Position
Working long hours on the computer can strain your wrists. Therefore, it’s important to optimize wrist position when sitting or standing. The ideal angle when standing is slightly more extended (tilted upwards) than when sitting. A failure to consider this difference in those who frequently swap between sitting and standing has been shown to lead to greater wrist pain and discomfort. In order to protect your wrists when standing, always keep your keyboard and mouse at the same level, and your wrists straight when typing. If you still experience sore wrists on occasion, consider using an adjustable keyboard stand and gel mouse pads for optimal support. Why not consider our Palm and Wrist Rest product, to improve your working position.
5. Use Arm Supports
An arm support is soft padding or surface area that attaches to your desk. It is designed to reduce pressure on the wrist that operates the mouse. This is a well-researched area, with numerous studies showing arm supports can significantly reduce the risk of developing neck and shoulder problems. These are worth looking into if you often experience problems, especially on the side of your dominant hand.
6. Remember to Take Breaks
Even though standing at your desk is better than sitting, you should still take regular breaks to move and stretch, clear your head and rest your eyes. For some people those quick breaks come naturally, while others may need an automated reminder. A great option is to install reminder software on your computer, or to download a break reminder app on your phone. One study found that after just two weeks of using a reminder program, call centre employees experienced less upper limb and back discomfort.
Using a standing desk can be great for your health. However, a standing desk can be difficult to get used to and can even cause problems when not used correctly. Try the tips on this list to maximize the benefits of your standing desk while minimizing the risks.
- Studies show that using a standing desk at work can lower blood sugar levels, especially after lunch.
- It is widely accepted that the more time you spend sitting, the greater your risk of developing heart disease.
- Several studies show that standing desks can dramatically decrease chronic back pain caused by prolonged sitting.
- One study found that standing desks can lower feelings of stress and fatigue, while improving mood and energy levels.
- Research suggests that reduced sitting time may lower your risk of dying early and therefore help you live longer
- Try to alternate between sitting and standing. Early research suggests you should only spend 1 hour standing for every 1–2 hours sitting
- Adjust your desk and screen for your height. Your desk should align with your elbows, while the top of the screen should be at eye level.
- Anti-fatigue mats may reduce the tiredness, leg discomfort or back pain associated withstanding more than 2 hours per day.
- The ideal wrist position differs slightly between standing and sitting, so consider this when using your standing desk. Browse our products that assist with wrist pain.
- Attaching an arm support to your desk may help with shoulder and neck problems, especially on the side of your dominant hand.
- Try using an automated software or app to remind you to take regular breaks throughout the day.
About this blog...
All our information is gathered intelligently from the National Library of Medicine
All our findings are available on PubMed®
Further facts and content adapted from the material of Joe Leech MS, RD (Aus)