Most Americans sit for almost six hours per day, and that much sitting is not good for our health! Sitting for prolonged periods is thought to contribute to a huge number of negative health effects, so we are being encouraged to find more ways to move around. Whether that is taking short breaks, exercising, or just standing more at work.
Indeed, one recent trend is for the ‘standing desk’ this is a desk that will allow workers to do their usual office job, while standing up. Standing desk designs vary from ‘high tables’ to more sophisticated adjustable desks that let you switch from sitting to standing with relative ease. The end goal of all of these is the same…to reduce the time that you spend sitting while you are at work.
Why Use a Standing Desk?
There are several benefits to using a standing desk over a sitting one, including:
- Lower risk of obesity:
One recent study conducted by James Levine of the Mayo Clinic had a group of office workers increase their daily calorie intake by 1,000 calories. As a result of this calorie intake change some workers gained work but others did not. After tracking day to day habits of the workers it was determined that the ones who did not gain work spent 2.25 hours per day less time sitting still than their weight-gaining peers. Standing burns 50 more calories per hour than sitting. Moving around burns even more calories.
- Lower Cancer Risk:
Colon cancer and breast cancer are thought to be linked to being sedentary. There are some studies that suggest that ovarian cancer as well as prostate and lung cancer may be linked to a sedentary lifestyle as well. It is unclear exactly why some cancers appear to be linked to sitting, but it is thought that C-reactive protein levels are increased in people who sit for a long time.
- Reduced Risk of Neck, Back and Shoulder Pain:
The modern ‘keyboard posture’ is not natural. Slouching over a desk is bad for your back, neck and shoulders. The more time you spend walking around, standing, etc., the better your posture will be. Standing more can help to improve your core strength and will make it easier to be mindful of your posture. Even if you do not have back pain right now, it is worth taking the time to get used to moving around more, so that you can enjoy being pain free for many years to come.
- Increase Your Life Expectancy:
People who are able to cut their time sitting down from the average six hours per day to just three hours per day may add years to their life expectancy. It is unclear exactly what it is that causes the damage from sitting but it is clear that the damage is being done. Standing a little more is a small price to pay for a longer and hopefully healthier life.
Standing Desks Can Shape Your Habits
Standing desks aren’t a weight loss solution, and people who are overweight or who have back ache already might struggle with them, but they can be a huge benefit to people who are generally healthy and who want to stay that way. The problem is that getting used to them can take a while. You will need to adjust the position of your computer monitor, keyboard, mouse and phone. You may need to start wearing different shoes to work, and it’s a good idea to place a non-slip mat in front of the desk so that you can stand on a comfortable surface.
Some people struggle to concentrate while standing. It’s not too bad to send short messages and do basic day to day work while at a standing desk, especially if that work revolves around things like customer service where you’re talking more than typing. Filing complex accounts or composing a carefully worded email might be better performed sitting down. You may want to have two working areas, one sitting and one standing, to facilitate exactly that.
Posture Still Matters
One thing that has started to surface with the rise of standing desks is exactly how important good posture is. A lot of people are using a standing portable desk as a way of ‘being healthy’ but without really understanding what the value of a standing desk is, and how to use it. If you’re standing on a poor surface, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and your desk is not properly adjusted, then you are going to open yourself up to a nice list of health problems, just the same as if you were sitting all day. In fact, standing incorrectly could be worse than sitting, causing problems more quickly.
It’s a good idea to mix standing and sitting, so that you get to relax and don’t put too much strain on your lower backs or your legs. It’s also a good idea to try to move around as much as possible. Sitting still is bad for you, standing still is bad too. Adjust your posture. Shift your weight from one food to another, recline slightly so that you’re relaxed when sitting. All of these things can make a difference to your wellbeing.
The safest way to work standing is to do it at a properly adjusted desk, and to do it in short bursts. If you want to sit/stand, then try to work in ‘sprints’ of between thirty and ninety minutes. Sit, relax and focus on difficult tasks, then when you feel your concentration wander, stand again. Do not use an alarm for this…not if you need to be focused. It takes more than 20 minutes for your brain to focus again after you have had a period of interruption, so you will need to give yourself time to get back into the groove of the work you are doing after standing or sitting again. Once you find your flow, though, you will find that having a sit/stand or standing desks helps a lot.