Standing Desk Benefits: Is it time to invest?
Standing desks have been around for a while, but have only recently become all the rage, with many businesses deciding to purchase for their workers, or workers purchasing it for home offices.
It’s also no secret that many studies show that those who lead sedentary lifestyles or sit for long periods of time are more susceptible to type-2 diabetes, heart disease or a shorter life expectancy. The scariest part? The effects of long-term sitting can’t easily be counteracted by exercise or diet.
But do these desks really have more benefits than their sitting counterparts?
6 benefits of a standing desk:
- Reduces back pain
Back pain is something that affects 80% of adults at some point in their lives, and the biggest culprit is sitting hunched over at the desk, slouched on an office chair, or having your neck bent over your mobile phone (our daily struggle)!
Working at a desk is a common cause of neck/back pain, because usually, you’re accommodating to your workspace rather than the other way around. If your computer monitor is too far away, too high, too low, too small or too dim - your body will naturally manoeuvre to be able to continue working, often to the detriment of your body & posture.
With the average human head weighing as much as a bowling bowl (5.4kgs) - if your neck is bent to 45 degrees, your head exerts nearly 23kgs of force on your neck. Now imagine doing this for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. In addition to straining joints and muscles in your neck, the pressure also affects your breathing and mood.
Many studies conducted have explored the effect of standing desks on back pain, one being the “Take-a-Stand Project” in 2011. This study found that participants who spent an average of 66 minutes of their workday standing experienced a 54% reduction in upper back and neck pain. Sign us up!
- Lower your risk of heart disease
The idea that standing is better for heart health was first proposed in a study of bus conductors in 1953. It was found that those who stood all day had half the risk of heart-disease-related deaths compared to their sitting counterparts.
Then 60 years later, a comparison of 18 studies (totalling up to 800,000 participants!) came to the same conclusion as the 1953 study.
The findings were consistent in that a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to 90% increase in the risk of cardiovascular mortality, and a 147% increase in the risk of cardiovascular events compared to an active lifestyle.
Sixty years later, a comparison of 18 studies with almost 800,000 participants came to the same conclusions as the original bus conductor study. Their findings were that a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to a 90% increase in the risk of cardiovascular mortality and a 147% increase in the risk of cardiovascular events as compared to an active lifestyle.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time was found to be so harmful that even an hour of intense exercise may not make up for the negative effects of an entire day spent sitting.
- Lower risk of weight gain & obesity
Weight gain occurs when there’s higher caloric intake than expenditure. Conversely, burning and expending more calories will result in weight loss.
Now, while exercise is the most effective method in burning calories quickly, simply choosing to stand instead of sitting will also make an impact.
When you compare an afternoon of sitting to an equal amount of sitting, it has been found to burn over 170 additional calories.
That’s almost 1000 extra calories that are burned each week simply from choosing to stand rather than sit at your desk… And that’s with next to no extra effort!
Over the course of a full year, you would’ve burnt over 30,000 extra calories! Think about all the extra cake you could eat! We’re joking (but only kind of).
Credit: DigiFab Creations
- Lower blood sugar levels & risk of type 2 diabetes
Spikes in blood sugar levels are pretty standard after a meal, however, those who experience large spikes have a much higher risk of becoming diabetic.
A study conducted in 2013 of 10 office workers found that standing for around 3 hours after lunch reduced blood sugar levels by 43% compared to those sitting for the same amount of time. And this is with no significant physical movements between the two groups - which means the decrease is due to standing vs sitting.
Another study found that alternating between sitting and standing every 30 minutes was enough to reduce blood sugar spikes by an average of 11.1%. All with nothing more than deciding to stand!
The harmful effects of sitting after meals could help explain why sedentary lifestyles are linked to 112% increased risk of type 2 diabetes!
- Improved mood & energy levels
Sedentary lifestyles have been linked to an increased risk in both depression and anxiety. During the ‘Take a Stand Projects’ we mentioned before, a group of 24 office workers were provided with a standing desk, and during that time they also had to self-report on their moods over the 4 week period. Participants reporting improved mood when they reduced 'sitting time' by 66 minutes.
At the end of the study, they were asked a series of questions, and 87% reported feeling more comfortable and energised, 75% felt healthier, 71% more focused, 66% more productive, 62% happier, and 33% felt less stressed.
All in the simple act of standing! When these desks were removed, the participants reported a fall in their mood... You can see what we're getting at.
- Boost productivity
A common concern amongst those who are interested in a standing desk is whether it’ll impact their ability to complete daily tasks like typing, answering calls, etc.
Like with anything, it takes time to get used to, but there are no reported negative impacts by those using standing desks.
In a study of 60 young office employees who used a standing desk for 4 hours each day, it had no impact on character typed per minute, or on typing errors.
If anything, the boost in mood, energy, and the reduction in back, shoulder and neck discomfort & pain will improve your productivity rather than hinder it.
- Live longer
Studies have found that there a significant link between a sedentary lifestyle and early death, which isn’t surprising given the strong association between sedentary time, heart disease and diabetes.
A review of 18 studies found that those who sit the most are at a 49% greater risk of dying earlier than those who sit the least.
Another study found that reducing sitting time to just 3 hours a day would raise the average life expectancy by 2 years.
While observational studies don’t prove cause and effect, there’s a whole bunch of evidence that points to standing more and how it could lengthen our lifespan.
So if you’ve been holding off on purchasing one for your home office, or thinking about whether to get it for your employees… Maybe we’ve helped you make up your mind. We for one are definitely going to stand more!