The research is everywhere that sitting too much is bad for our health. A 2008 Vanderbilt University study of 6300 people estimates that the average worker spends 55% of waking hours (7.7 hours) sitting. That includes the commute to work, time spent at your desk, and sofa-time at home.
It seems in recent years, the fitball-as-office-chair fad has been replaced with the standing desk, to help you get off your butt altogether. A standing desk is any arrangement of furniture that allows you to stand up while you work at your desk. Adjustable-height desks or converters can range in price from free (stacks of books under your computer work quite well), to an affordable desk converter, to a full-on standing desk that can cost thousands of dollars.
When you stand it’s said you will reduce back pain, burn more calories, improve your posture and be more productive.
If you think about how stiff and lethargic you feel after sitting for a long stretch of time, standing makes a lot of sense.
Here’s what happens when you sit for long periods of time:
– Weakened leg and gluteal muscles
– Tight hips and increased back pain and discomfort
– Stiff shoulders and neck
– Increased risk of ergonomic injuries, especially in hands and wrists
– Decreased circulation that can lead to blood pooling in lower limbs
– Increased risk of diabetes
– Increased risk of heart disease
– Decreased life span
I’ve always been of the belief that you can’t feel your best or get your best work done when you’re chained to your desk for hours at a time, but are standing desks really the answer to all of our workday-butts-in-seats woes?
The simple answer is YES. It’s always good to get up and move throughout the day, and a standing desk is one great way to help you do that.
A standing desk may bring the following benefits:
– You burn more calories. And while the difference between sitting and standing is minimal (.15 higher per minute when standing), those calories can add up, and you’re more likely to move even more when you’re already standing.
– You improve your posture and minimize back pain. While there is research to suggest that sitting isn’t as bad for the back as some would have you believe, there are a great many studies that suggest it is. Much has to do with the posture we slouch into after hours at the desk, and standing can help stretch and strengthen tired, shortened muscles.
– You may live longer. Studies have found a strong link between increased sitting time and life expectancy. One meta-analysis of 18 different studies concluded that those who sit more are at a 49% greater risk of dying early than those who move more.
– You may reduce your risk of heart disease. This is not a new concept. In fact it was first studied in 1953 with a group of London bus conductors. The study found that bus conductors who stood all day had half the risk of heart disease-related deaths as the drivers who had to sit all day.
– You may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes. And, if you’re already diabetic you can improve blood sugar management. The muscle activity needed for even low-level movement like standing is linked to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall, and your health risks increase.
– You’ll feel more positive and have more energy. Research has shown that standing more during the day can help reduce stress, and boost energy. Standing boosts blood flow and oxygen uptake, and engages musculature throughout the body, all of which help you feel more energized.
There are so many valuable reasons to get standing, and if there’s one reason I believe that everyone should have a standing desk, or a simple converter on top of your desk, it’s this: Without a standing desk option, your only choice is to keep sitting, and that’s not the best option for our health and productivity.
I have a standing desk, but I don’t stand all day long. That’s why I like any model that allows you to easily switch from seated to standing, because realistically we’re not meant to stand all day either. If you go from sitting all day to standing all day, you’ll no doubt experience back, leg and foot pain before long, and then you have a whole new set of problems. So ease into it. Listen to your body and mind, and experiment with different time intervals to determine what works best for you.
I usually stand for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, usually for tasks like writing or other creative work. If I find myself getting distracted or fidgety it’s a sign for me to switch back to sitting, or to take a break and go for a walk. I find when I switch from sitting to standing throughout the day, every shift provides a boost in focus and energy, and I’m better of than if I just sit or just stand.
Finally, you don’t need to spend a fortune for a worthwhile standing desk. And if cost is your barrier to entry, it doesn’t have to be. One of the most affordable and easy to use models that I found is a Canadian product called AnthroDesk.
They provide products for every budget, but if you’re looking for an economical, well-built option, the simple sliding desk top converter transitions easily, adapts to different height levels, and transforms any flat table or desk surface into a standing desk within minutes.
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