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The Benefits of a Standing Desk

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: August 05, 2022

Obesity, back pain, and an increased chance of heart disease are only a few of the risk factors associated with a sedentary lifestyle. The human body wasn’t meant to sit for hours on end, yet that’s the life that the modern office worker tends to lead.

Research has shown that a sedentary (seated) lifestyle alters the body’s ability to metabolize fat and regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. Employers and employees have both looked for ways to bring physical activity to the office. Standing desks counteract the long-term negative effects of prolonged sitting and offer a wide range of benefits.

5 Benefits of Standing Desks

1. Standing Burns More Calories

Standing makes the body work harder than when sitting. Although the extra energy use isn’t significantly higher, with an overall increase of only 54 calories over a six-hour period, shifting between the positions is a healthy idea.

A classroom study found that sit-stand desks, those that transition for use in both positions, helped students burn more calories and increased positive classroom behavior. Standing also engages postural muscles in the back and abdominal area. The extra calorie burn and activation of muscles connect the use of standing desks to an overall reduction in obesity and obesity-related illnesses. No matter how small the number of extra calories burned, movement moves you towards better health.

2. Curb Blood Sugar Levels

The body does not regulate blood sugar as well when sitting in comparison to standing. One study found that short 30-minute sessions at a standing desk during the workday improved glucose and lipid metabolism in overweight, sedentary office workers. Improvements were further made when the time spent standing was followed by short periods of walking. Perhaps, if you’re already in the standing position, you’ll be more likely to walk somewhere too, keeping the body in motion.

The extra help that standing offers in blood glucose control aids other growing health concerns like type II diabetes. Those with type II diabetes are at greater risk for the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle, like weight gain and cardiovascular problems. The opportunity to stand throughout the day and battle against a sedentary lifestyle not only helps those who already have diabetes but also helps those at risk of diabetes development. It’s a proactive way to keep blood sugar in check.

3. Standing May Decrease Your Chances of Heart Disease

Weight and blood sugar levels aren’t the only places that scientists see the health benefits of using a standing desk. The diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases is on the rise. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Standing throughout the day promotes good heart health.

However, with heart disease, it’s important to have a balance between standing and sitting. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of heart disease but so does standing for long periods of time. The heart needs movement between the two to stay healthy. Standing desks or sit-stand desks give you the opportunity to keep changing positions for better long-term heart health.

4. Reduce Back Pain

Prolonged sitting takes a toll on the postural muscles, contributing to lower back pain. A sitting position shortens the hip flexors and causes the glutes and abs to weaken. That puts extra strain on the lower back that continues when you stand up because the support muscles in the abs and glutes don’t fire as they should. The combination puts stress on the lower back that extends well beyond office hours. It can also affect the overall posture, causing a rounded back, hunched shoulders, or stooping neck. The opportunity to stand helps keep the postural muscles strong and activated while the body maintains muscular balance.

However, you get the most back pain relief by alternating between a standing and sitting position. Research has shown that prolonged standing puts extra stress on the back just as prolonged sitting can. Changing positions for a few minutes every hour helps rebalance the muscles and takes the pressure off of the lower back.

5. Stand to Give Yourself a Physical and Mental Boost

It may seem counterintuitive, but activity reduces fatigue and boosts mood. People who go from not exercising to exercising experience increased energy levels over time. The same holds true for a mild activity like standing.

In addition, active body positions like standing can provide a small mental boost, fighting against mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that standing desks improve engagement and work performance, too, because employees are more mentally “awake.” It’s like changing positions in the car when you start to feel drowsy. Once you feel those eyelids getting heavy, stand up and get the body going.

Extend Standing Desk Benefits by Doing More Than “Not-Sitting”

Standing has great benefits, but standing alone isn’t the be-all, end-all of what standing offers. Standing is like the gateway to physical activity. It gives you a chance to do other types of activity, like walking, climbing stairs, or even pacing. If you’re already up, you may be more likely to take a quick two or three-minute walk around the office or climb a flight or two of stairs on your break.

A standing desk can add a lot of steps into your day as you pace and think about your work. Imagine using voice recognition software, for example, and walking in front of your desk while you dictate your work. When it’s time to proofread, you can stand still or take a sitting break. But the option to move while working is more than not-sitting; it’s building activity into your routine.

Do Standing Right

Like a sitting desk, the ergonomics of the standing desk need to be correct for all of the health benefits. Start with the desk’s height. Your elbows should stay at about a 90-degree angle when on the desk.

The keyboard and mouse should be located where you do not have to overextend the arms to reach them. They should also be close to one another so that any movement between the two feels natural. The top of the laptop or computer monitor should sit at about eye level with the monitor tilted to a 10 to 20-degree angle. Concrete or other hard floors may require the use of an anti-fatigue mat to cushion the feet and joints.

Finally, the real benefits of a standing desk come when you can change positions throughout the day. Modern medical advice tells us that human beings weren’t designed to maintain a static position for hours on end. And yet modern life puts office workers in a chair for hours every day. The best standing desks are often height-adjustable desks like sit-stand desks that transition between both positions. The height adjustments may be mechanical or electric, with electric models costing the most.

Standing desk converters are an affordable option that rests on top of a standard sitting desk. Converters come in different heights and designs to fit within the workspace you’re already using.

You’ve also got treadmill desks that burn far more calories than standing alone. These desks come with a high price tag and feature a work surface attached to a treadmill with a limited speed range. We’re talking only 2 to 2.5 miles per hour. However, imagine the number of calories you can burn while slowing pacing your way through the typical workday.

Final Takeaways

Any desk that gives you the chance to change positions can positively affect your health. If you use a standing desk, use it to your full advantage. Change positions, walk, pace, sit, and stand to your full physical advantage. It requires changing how you think and function at work, but the change could bring huge benefits to your health and work performance.

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