If you are one of 86% of American workers who spends their day in an office, you are no doubt familiar with spending extended periods of time sitting at your desk. There are a myriad of health problems associated with working in a sedentary environment, including but not limited to musculoskeletal injuries, coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and excessive weight gain and obesity.
While there are a lot of quick fixes to combat what many call the “sitting sickness”, such as taking frequent breaks, stretching, and even using a yoga ball instead of a chair, these things alone can’t always adequately fight the health risks that come with extended amounts of sitting. So what is something more tangible you can do to help? Ergonomic furniture has become more and more popular in recent years, and perhaps the most common and successful of these products is the standing desk and ergonomic chair.
Also called a “stand-up desk”, standing desks are basically just that: a desk that you can comfortably stand at while working. Many versions are also adjustable so you can quickly and easily change heights and alternate between sitting and standing. These are typically referred to as “sit-stand desks” or “height-adjustable desks”- but no matter what you call them, they have been proven to help increase productivity and negate some of the harmful side effects associated with sitting down.
Let’s face it: our bodies were not designed to be sitting down for extended lengths of time. The human body is made to run, jump, and most importantly, stand-which is why sitting for so long can have dramatic and tangible effects on our bodies. While we tend to focus on the physical consequences of sitting, there are plenty of harmful mental ramifications that can come from prolonged sedentary lifestyles as well. According to a 2008 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, alternating between sitting and standing at work can help increase vigor and energy, reduce fatigue, and even help combat the onset of anxiety and depression. And while you can do this by taking frequent breaks, which is recommended, a standing desk can help you remain productive and continue your workday without having to take a physical break.
According to a study published by the CDC, workers who used standing desks as opposed to traditional ones saw a 54% decrease in back and neck pain after just four weeks. Many workers also reported feeling as though they had better posture, more energy, and reported almost a 25% increase in their productivity.
Aside from pain and productivity, there are plenty of long-term benefits associated with using standing or height-adjustable desks. While it’s not quite the same as going for a lunch break jog, people who use standing desks instead of traditional ones burn 170 more calories per hour than those who sit. If you choose to stand instead of sit while at work, you could be burning almost 1000 more calories per week. Along with obesity and weight gain, diabetes is another harmful side effect linked to sitting; studies have shown that people who choose to stand instead of sit following their lunch break can reduce their blood sugar spike by almost 43%. That means choosing to stand for even an hour after eating your lunch can help reduce your risk for diabetes later in life. Two diseases that typically go hand-in-hand are diabetes and coronary heart disease, since they are usually caused by the same actions. Since 1953, studies have shown that sedentary lifestyles can increase your risk of mortality via cardiovascular disease by almost 90%, and can increase your chances of heart issues by 147%.
While that blood is pumping and aiding in eliminating your risk for diabetes and heart disease, you may also notice you are not only more productive but more focused. It has been proven that standing can also help with your concentration. Brains are stimulated by blood flow, which occurs when your body is moving or standing. Sitting down for hours at a time will not only make you feel sluggish but also make it harder for you to focus or concentrate on tasks. Better concentration can lead to not only an increase in productivity but an increase in creativity, for the same reasons- getting your blood moving increases brain activity, meaning you will literally be “getting those creative juices flowing”!
If you are considering purchasing a standing desk to help improve your work ergonomics, there are just a few things to remember. Begin by standing for just half the day to avoid foot and leg pain, and make sure the rest of your workspace is also utilizing good ergonomics- keep your computer at eye level so you are not bending over to look at the screen, and be sure your mouse is aligned with where your forearm naturally falls. After that, just stand back, and let the magic happen!