Are the health benefits of standing desks for real? Or are standing desks just a fad?
These might be questions that pop up in your mind whenever you think about standing desks.
Well, the fact is, people are now more sedentary than ever. To public health officials, that’s the most worrisome thing about our modern day lifestyle.
This is evident enough. Right from the time we wake up till the time we hit the sack, we’re sitting all the time—in our cars stuck in traffic, in our office staring at our screens and even after work, binge-watching Netflix.
All these factors have led up to increasing cases of “lifestyle diseases.” Lifestyle diseases can range from heart ailments to diabetes, from obesity to back pain, and even sometimes cancer.
But best part is, you can change your lifestyle and can reduce these health risks through increasing your activity levels.
And standing desks are a great way to start with upping your activity level without affecting your work.
How Standing Desks Are Better For Your Health
A standing desk, also called a sit-stand desk, is a desk that can be adjusted to allow you to work while standing.
Adjustable standing desk converters, are a recent innovation in the office ergonomics space that take this a step further.
With a standing desk converter, you don’t need to replace your desk. Just place the converter on your table and adjust the height manually or electrically. This will enable you to sit or stand to work.
Standing desks or standing desk converters have been used by well known people to improve their productivity and focus.
Today, they are again gaining popularity as research has shown that the health benefits of standing desks can help reduce the risks of lifestyle diseases.
Here are the 5 science-backed health benefits of standing desks:
1. Standing reduces the risk of heart disease
It’s simple. Being more active lowers your cholesterol level and your weight. This in turn reduces your risk of developing heart disease.
In the 1950s, British scientists researched and compared the incidence of heart attacks of bus conductors (who stand all day) to the bus drivers (who sit all day). The research found that the drivers were 42% more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease as compared to the conductors.
In a study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology in the United States, researchers sampled over 100,000 adults. They found that people who sat for 6 hours or more a day died earlier than those who sat for 3 hours or less.
The other significant finding was that time spent sitting was independently associated with the death rate.
This means that regardless of whether you went to the gym in the morning, you still need to be active throughout your work day.
2. Standing lowers your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
The correlation is evident. Sitting for too long increases blood sugar and insulin levels , which increases your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
In a study published in Diabetologia, people who were more sedentary had higher chances of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to those who were more active.
One extra hour of sedentary time was associated with a 22% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and a 39% increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
To reduce the risk of developing this disease, take standing or walking breaks at work. Even a short break can help you reduce your blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing your risk of developing this lifestyle disease.
Another study in 2018 tracked the activity of people who wore accelerometers. The study found that irrespective of the total time people spent exercising or sitting, those who moved more frequently had lower blood glucose levels as compared to the people who sat for prolonged periods.
3. A standing desk could reduce your risk of musculoskeletal problems.
If you randomly ask a room full of people if they suffer from back or neck pain, there’s a good chance, 80% of them would say yes.
This is unsurprising because of the increasingly long hours of most desk jobs.
A study in Australia compared the fatigue levels of the workers who used a stand-up desk converter every 30 minutes versus those who were seated only.
It found that the sit-stand desk users experienced a significant reduction of 31.8% in their lower back pain and a 22% reduction in overall tiredness.
If you can identify with this, it’s time to speak with your doctor or physiotherapist to verify whether a standing desk could help you with your musculoskeletal problems.
4. Standing more reduces the risk of obesity
Now here’s something you can tell your mom – fidgeting, shaking your foot and an inability to sit still, could actually make you leaner and healthier.
James A Levin an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic began investigating why people fall prey to obesity. He required workers to to stick to a specific exercise regime and diet.
Despite the standardized diet and exercise, some participants gained weight, and others didn’t.
Dr Levine’s study found that obese people tend to fidget much less compared to their leaner counterparts, which resulted in the former spending at least 2 hours more each day sitting physically idle.
A fact that might astonish you is, fidgeting alone is enough to burn 350 extra calories per day, which adds up to a weight loss of 4 to 13 kg per year!
Now this is one of the health benefits of standing desks that actually contributes to good looks!
5. Standing may reduce your risk of cancer
Prolonged sitting could increase your risk of certain types of cancer.
A study carried out by the National Cancer Institute, and the Centre for Disease Control found that nearly a hundred thousand cases of breast and colon cancer are linked to inactivity.
While the underlying reason for such an increase in the cases of cancer is unclear, the scientists found a higher number of C-reactive proteins which is a type of biomarker in people who sat for a longer duration. This is tied to the development of cancer.
Dr Neville Owen of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute puts it-
“Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right. It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk. This phenomenon isn’t dependent on body weight or how much exercise people do.”
It is no wonder that sitting is considered “the new smoking,”.
The question is: what can we do about it?
For now, it’s easy to do: stand up now and walk around your office.
The trick is to transform this into a long term habit. That’s where standing desks and the health benefits of standing desks come in.
Regularly using a standing desk would make you naturally more active.
In addition to burning calories while standing, you will also move around and fidget more. This will help you reduce your blood sugar and insulin level, and remove some of that pesky fat around your waist.