Health Literacy

Why You Should Be Using a Stand Up Desk

Standing Desk

Most Americans spend nearly six hours per day sitting, which can have detrimental effects on our health. Prolonged sitting is associated with numerous negative health outcomes, prompting the encouragement to incorporate more movement into our routines. This can be achieved through short breaks, regular exercise, or simply by standing more at work.

A recent trend advocating for standing desks has emerged. These desks allow workers to perform their typical office tasks while standing upright. Standing desk designs range from elevated tables to advanced adjustable desks that facilitate a seamless transition between sitting and standing. The ultimate objective remains consistent: to minimize the time spent sitting during work hours.

Reasons for Using a Standing Desk

1. Lower Risk of Obesity

A study led by James Levine at the Mayo Clinic involved office workers increasing their daily calorie intake by 1,000 calories. As a result, some workers gained weight while others did not. The analysis revealed that those who did not gain weight spent 2.25 hours less per day sitting still compared to their weight-gaining counterparts. Standing burns 50 more calories per hour than sitting, and moving around expends even more calories.

2. Lower Cancer Risk

Sedentary behavior is believed to be linked to colon and breast cancer. Some studies suggest a potential association with ovarian, prostate, and lung cancer as well. Although the exact reasons behind these connections are unclear, it is theorized that prolonged sitting may lead to increased levels of C-reactive protein.

3. Reduced Risk of Neck, Back, and Shoulder Pain

The modern posture adopted while working at a desk is not natural and can lead to discomfort in the neck, back, and shoulders. Engaging in activities like walking and standing can improve posture and core strength. Even if you don’t currently experience back pain, it’s worthwhile to incorporate more movement into your routine to potentially enjoy a pain-free existence in the future.

4. Increase Your Life Expectancy

Reducing daily sitting time from the average six hours to just three hours may extend one’s life expectancy. While the precise mechanisms of the damage caused by prolonged sitting are not fully understood, the negative impact is evident. Standing a bit more is a small investment for a longer, and hopefully healthier, life.

Standing Desks Can Influence Your Habits

Standing desks are not a panacea for weight loss, and individuals who are overweight or already experience back pain may find them challenging. However, they can be immensely beneficial for generally healthy individuals looking to maintain their well-being. The adjustment period for using standing desks may take some time. You’ll need to modify the positioning of your computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, and phone. It may also be beneficial to wear different shoes and place a non-slip mat in front of the desk for added comfort.

Some individuals may struggle to maintain focus while standing. Sending brief messages and handling basic day-to-day tasks are manageable at a standing desk, particularly in roles like customer service that involve more talking than typing. However, tasks such as complex accounting or composing detailed emails might be better suited for a seated position. Having separate workspaces for sitting and standing can facilitate this flexibility.

Posture Still Matters

With the popularity of standing desks, the importance of maintaining good posture has come to the forefront. Many people adopt a standing desk as a means of pursuing health without fully comprehending its value and proper usage. If you stand on an inadequate surface, wear ill-fitting shoes, or have an improperly adjusted desk, you could expose yourself to a range of health issues, potentially even more rapidly than if you were seated all day.

It’s advisable to alternate between standing and sitting to avoid putting excessive strain on your lower back and legs. Additionally, strive to move around as much as possible. Prolonged stillness, whether sitting or standing, is detrimental to your health. Adjust your posture, shift your weight, and find a relaxed yet engaged position when seated. These practices can significantly enhance your well-being.

The safest approach to working while standing is at a properly adjusted desk, and it’s best to do so in short intervals. If you opt for a sit-stand arrangement, aim to work in “sprints” lasting between thirty and ninety minutes. Sit down, relax, and focus on challenging tasks. When you notice your concentration waning, switch to a standing position. Avoid using an alarm for this purpose, especially if intense focus is required. The brain needs more than 20 minutes to regain focus after an interruption, so allow yourself the time to reestablish your workflow after transitioning between sitting and standing. Once you establish your rhythm, you’ll find that having a sit-stand or standing desk can be highly beneficial.

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Dr. Jade Marie Tomaszewski is a pathologist-in-training at McGill University, where she also did her degree in MSc Pathology. She obtained her medical degree (MD) from the University of the Philippines, after completing a BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. In her (little) spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, curling up with a book and a large mug of tea, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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