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Do Standing Desks Live up to the Hype?

Standing desks have got more popular in recent years, it would be easy to discount them as the latest office productivity fad. And while there may be a bit of that going on, there’s actually quite a bit of research that suggests that adjustable height desks can have a positive impact on your life.

Whether it takes the form of standing desk converters or fully functional standing desks, these devices could improve both your productivity and your health. Here are some of the advantages that standing desks provide.


Health Advantages

Research is still early on, and preliminary medical and scientific information should always be treated with some level of caution. But early studies on people who use standing desks in the office demonstrate that there could be some powerful benefits to your health.


Lower Risks of Obesity

We generally tend to frame the role of weight loss into very reductive terms. We relate how much weight we lose to calories burned which are directly a result of how active we are for an extended period of time. But we can focus so much on our exercise routines that we can fail to think about the little changes we can make in our lives to chip off a calorie here or there.

We likely won’t be able to ditch the office for a life of hunting and gathering anytime soon, but using standing options in the the form of standing desk mats or more permanent options can allow us to work off the pounds that build up during the 9 to 5 routine.

Assuming a balanced schedule of standing and sitting, that could mean an extra 750 to 1000 calories burnt a week without having to go to the gym. Over the course of a year, that could add up to almost 10 pounds lost. It’s certainly not a replacement for a healthy diet and exercise, but it’s a small decision that can make a big difference in the long run.


Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Over six decades of research have come to the conclusion that standing may have a positive impact on your heart health. A 1953 study identified that bus drivers, who spend almost their entire work days sitting, had a much higher risk of heart disease than their peers.

It’s an analysis that’s been retested in sample sizes as large as 800,000, and the results always come out the same. In fact, the levels of risk are shocking. Those who live a sedentary lifestyle are almost double as likely to die of cardiovascular disease as their more active peers, and they have two and a half times the risk of a cardiovascular event. Heart disease is an especially prevalent threat in the United States, and the risks to heart health that come from sitting is some of the most conclusive evidence that employing a standing desk can have a dramatic impact on your health.

It’s not just the case for cubicle workers either. Gamers can benefit from gaming desks that offer a standing option as well, and anyone who finds themselves sitting for long periods of time should look for an alternative option that allows them to stretch their leagues and get the blood flow pumping, even if they can’t find the time to hit the gym.



Less Back Pain

While blue collar office workers may not have to worry about losing their hand in a grain thresher or acquiring black lung in the mines, that doesn’t mean that injuries among traditional 9 to 5 office workers aren’t prevalent and worth taking seriously. Roughly four out of five adults will complain about back pain in their lifetime, and there seems to be a direct correlation between long hours in the office and back pain.

There are studies to back this up as well. 2011’s Take a Stand Project demonstrated that spending about an hour of your work day standing rather than sitting could result in back pain being cut roughly in half. And the results weren’t applicable just to back pain either. Other common issues like neck and leg pain were also shown to be less chronic in those who took the time to stand semi-regularly. And respondents started feeling the positive effects of these strategies in as little as four weeks.

The problem with chronic pain is that it quickly becomes easy to ignore, and you can lose track of what life used to feel like before the pain. Just because you don’t think about the pain doesn’t mean it’s not there. Employing a standing desk can help you cut the issue off at the past and mitigate the issues before they become even more severe.


Longer Life Span

It’s easy to look at all of these circumstances in a vacuum without getting a look at the big picture, but when you combine factors like heart disease, general pain, and blood sugar, it paints a pretty rough picture for a sedentary lifestyle. Add in the fact that a sedentary lifestyle could be associated with certain forms of cancer as well and the expectations become even more grim. When you take things into perspective like this, it becomes clear that spending all your time sitting can actually have a meaningful impact on your expected lifespan.

18 studies have recently been analysed for their connecting conclusions, and the research seems to align to tell a worrying story: that the people who spend the most time sitting are 49% more at risk of premature death than those who spend the least time sitting.

That’s not to say that sitting more will cause you to live a shorter life, as there are too many factors to draw a direct cause and effect relationship, but this connection is well worth examining. One particular study indicated that simply spending three hours less of your time sitting a day could increase an America’s life expectancy by three years.



Lifestyle Advantages

The direct impact that a standing desk can have on your overall physical health will be a factor motivating enough for many people to adopt a standing desk, but it can also have an effect on your general emotional and mental well-being. Or at least that’s what many studies seem to indicate.

If you’re trying to convince your boss to allow you to get a standing desk, or you’re a manager looking at ways to improve the general company culture at your office, you may want to examine some of the benefits that come from a standing desk. Just keep in mind that as with the health concerns, studies involving standing desks are often still very young.



Increased Mood and Energy

We often tend to look at our mood as something internal that’s only marginally affected by our outside circumstances, but it’s foolish to underestimate the direct correlation between our environment, our physical health, and our emotional well-being. How we posture ourselves can affect our blood flow and our general mental acuity, and a few studies seem to tell us that standing generally has a more positive effect than sitting.

All of that seems in line with studies that indicate that a sedentary lifestyle strongly correlates with higher levels of anxiety and depression. Happier employees are good for most businesses, and employing standing desks in the office may be able to improve the company culture in a pretty meaningful way.


Higher Productivity

While the health of every employee should be important, standing desks can be advantageous even looking at the results in raw metrics. It’s long been believed that happier employees are more productive employees, and that’s something that generally tends to be backed up by studies. But some express concerns that standing desks can physically hinder productivity on some of the more necessary tasks.

We’re used to sitting down and typing after all, and critics argue that standing and typing at a desk is less efficient than sitting and typing. The numbers tell a different story. A study examined the productivity of 60 employees in a variety of routine tasks, and those who employed standing desks performed just as well as those in sitting desks. Their typing skills retained the same words per minute as when they were tested sitting and typing.