7 Benefits of a Standing Desk

By Geoff McKinnen
Last Updated On October 25th, 2020

The concept around the increasingly popular standing desk is to reduce the amount of time you’re sedentary at work. A growing number of studies have linked being excessively sedentary to…

7 Benefits of a Standing Desk

The concept around the increasingly popular standing desk is to reduce the amount of time you’re sedentary at work. A growing number of studies have linked being excessively sedentary to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, weight gain, and shortened life expectancy.

Many standing desks are height-adjustable so you can alternate between sitting and standing and find the optimal balance between the two.

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Our article goes over a few potential benefits of using a standing desk at work. Standing for even half of your workday may improve your physical health and minimize potential issues related to being sedentary.

1. Minimizes Back and Neck Pain

People who sit at a desk all day commonly experience back and neck pain as well as poor blood circulation, headaches and migraines, and jaw pain. Poor posture can also exacerbate physical health conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.

If you’re struggling with back pain or experience frequent neck aches, a few hours standing might relieve your discomfort. In a 2011 study by the National Institute of Health, Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source researchers found people who spent at least an hour standing experienced a 54 percent decrease in upper back and neck pain.

In another NIH study, Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source participants who worked at sit-to-stand desks noticed a significant reduction in chronic lower back pain.

2. Reduces Risk of Weight Gain

Being sedentary and working at a desk is linked to weight gain, obesity, and metabolic disease. On the other hand, spending more time standing can limit weight gain and its side effects, such as fatigue, slow metabolism, and back pain.

Benefits of a Standing Desk

A 2013 NIH study Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source compared equal amounts of time (185 minutes) spent sitting versus standing and found standing burned 174 more calories than sitting, increasing a person’s total daily energy expenditure (calories burned per day).

Your body must be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, and an extra 174 calories burned per day promotes this deficit. Effectively, increasing your calories burned by standing at your desk reduces the chances of weight gain, obesity, and their associated health conditions.

3. Improves Productivity

Standing desks are ergonomic—related or designed to improve workplace efficiency and comfort. When you’re not hunched over at your desk, you can focus on working instead of your discomfort. In a 2016 study, employees who stood at their desks were reportedly 45 percent more productive on a daily basis.

One potential (and reasonable) concern is if standing hinders a person’s ability to work properly. However, a 2009 study in the National Library of Medicine Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source found standing desks had little to no effect on a person’s typing or data-entry abilities.

4. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Further research Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source on plus-sized office workers saw an 11 percent decrease in blood sugar spikes when workers alternated between sitting and standing every 30 minutes.

Another study by the NIH Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source found workers’ blood sugar levels dropped by 43 percent when standing compared to sitting after lunch. In this study, participants wore pedometers to ensure each group’s results were due to movement throughout the office.

By spending more time standing at work, your risk of high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes is significantly reduced.

5. May Decrease Risk of Heart Disease

Researchers first theorized how standing improves heart health after a research conducted in the 50s Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source on the relationship between physical work and coronary heart disease. When comparing bus conductors and bus drivers, bus conductors who stood all day had half the risk of heart disease-related deaths compared to seated bus drivers.

Newer research backs this claim, with scientists finding prolonged sedentary time increases a person’s risk of heart disease by nearly three times. Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source By staying on your feet, you might minimize your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

6. Boosts Mood and Energy Levels

Being sedentary increases your risk of depression and anxiety, and using standing desks has shown to improve a person’s well-being and mood.

During a 7-week study Verified Source National Library of Medicine (NIH) World’s largest medical library, making biomedical data and information more accessible. View source participants used sit-to-stand desks and switched between sitting and standing at work. They reported feeling less stressed and more energized, healthy, focused, and happy while using sit-to-stand desks. After the sit-to-stand desks were removed, participants’ moods and energy levels reverted to their pre-sit-to-stand desk states, implying sit-to-stand desks were the source of better health.

7. May Increase Life Expectancy

Health conditions related to a sedentary lifestyle, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, can damage your overall health and decrease your life expectancy. Researchers in some of the past studies we’ve mentioned found a 90 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular mortality and a 50 percent increase in the risk of overall mortality related to prolonged sitting. Reducing your time spent sitting by at least three hours per day may be linked to increased life expectancy.

FAQs

How many hours should I stand per day?

Ideally, alternate between sitting and standing, as too much of either leads to negative side effects. Standing too much can cause joint pain, muscle stiffness, and inflammation in the legs.

Don’t suddenly switch from sitting all day to standing all day. Start with 30 to 60 minutes of standing per day and slowly work your way up to 2 to 4 hours per day. You can break these times up throughout your 8-hour workday to stand for roughly 10 to 30 minutes per hour.

How do I prevent sore feet from standing all day?

To prevent sore feet when standing, use an anti-fatigue mat, and wear comfortable, flat shoes such as running shoes, clogs, non-slip shoes, or nurse shoes. Compression socks are also helpful as they maintain blood flow to your feet and minimize discomfort and pain.

When standing, always switch up your position to take the pressure off your feet. You can also use a footrest to distribute your weight evenly and relieve one foot at a time.

Why does my lower back hurt after standing for a long time?

Several health conditions can cause lower back pain, such as muscle strain, degenerative disc disease, or herniated discs. Over-the-counter pain relievers, gentle stretching, and hot and cold therapy can relieve or reduce your pain, but always speak with your doctor for long-term solutions.

Bad posture is a common culprit for back pain, so when using a standing desk, make sure your setup promotes better posture. Set your desk’s height just tall enough so your forearms are in line with it, keep your keyboard and mouse within comfortable reach, and place your monitor close enough to prevent leaning into your desk.

Wear comfortable shoes and use an anti-fatigue mat to reduce pressure on your feet and make it easier to stand upright. Switching positions and stretching occasionally also reduces lower back pain and stiffness.

Can standing make me stronger?

Standing improves your balance and back, leg, and core muscles. When you first start using a standing desk, it can feel uncomfortable and hard on your body, but eventually, you’ll get accustomed to standing frequently.

Why is it harder to stand than to walk?

When you’re standing upright, the heart can’t pump enough blood from your legs back up your body. This leads to blood pooling up in your feet and ankles, causing numbness or paresthesia (pins and needles). Your body isn’t resting while you’re standing still; it’s constantly swaying and making adjustments, causing muscle fatigue in the back, neck, legs, and feet.

Take breaks between long periods of standing still and walk around or stretch to improve your blood circulation and reduce stiffness.

Conclusion

Standing instead of prolonged sitting at work can improve your overall physical, mental, and metabolic health. Using standing desks is a great alternative and introduces more physical activity into your daily life.

As with sitting, standing too much can be harmful and can cause leg inflammation, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins. Rather than switching from one extreme to another, find a balance between sitting and standing.

The simple changes you make today affect your health for years to come, and spending more time on your feet reduces your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, and can improve your mental health.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.


About the author

Geoff McKinnen is a writer focusing mainly on the healthcare industry and has written articles on everything from foods to help you lose weight to the connection between Alzheimer’s and sleep. Geoff’s passionate about helping readers improve their well-being to lead happier lives. Outside of work, Geoff enjoys cycling and hiking and believes that by leading a healthy lifestyle, he can help others do the same.

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