You may be familiar with the dangers of sitting down for too long. Some say it’s worse than smoking, while others might say that claim may be a little exaggerated. Either way, it is certain that prolonged sitting can cause back pains and neck strain that stretching can’t fix. So what can you do about it?
Fortunately, a new kind of office desk known as the standing desk has gained popularity in recent years. While working at a standing desk may seem tiring (and maybe even a little ridiculous) at first, standing desks have given workers a more reinvigorating alternative to the computer chair.
Sitting in the same spot for extended periods can make you sluggish and even drowsy — but standing allows constant movement, which helps keep you motivated and thinking as you work throughout the day. No surprise then that some managers are finding success through stand-up meetings: meetings where the individuals must participate by standing. The results? Participants felt more engaged with the work and one another.
Studies also show that sitting for too long has been linked to several heath issues, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. While a standing desk isn’t the universal answer, it can help break up a dangerous habit with intervals of activity and motion. One study reported by the BBC found that the use of standing desks positively affected blood glucose levels and even improved asthmatic symptoms.
Call it iHunch, computer neck, or any other name you want, the result is the same- using a computer for a long time is bound to strain your spine. Posture isn’t just about how you look— it affects your bone strength and even your confidence. When you stand, you tend to naturally adopt a straighter spine and more upright posture as you work. Finding an adjustable standing desk is crucial if you want to prevent the forward neck position that many laptops on desks cause.
Standing leads to higher heart rates, about an average of 10 beats per minute (BPM), and that leads to a difference of about 0.7 calories per person. “If you stand for three hours a day for five days that’s around 750 calories burnt. Over the course of a year it would add up to about 30,000 extra calories, or around 8lb of fat.” says Dr. Buckley from the University of Chester.
Standing for extended periods can be pretty tiring, particularly if you’re not wearing comfortable footwear or insoles. After a few hours, your feet may feel sore, and you may start shifting weight between both legs. By the end of the day, your whole leg may feel like burning, and if you don’t balance stationary standing with stretches and regular exercises, working at a standing desk could be damaging to your muscles.
Veins in the lower legs have to transport blood from the heart, all the way to the feet and back up to the heart again. When people stand for too long or wear ill-fitting clothing, the veins may have to do extra work, resulting in a slight swelling that appears on the surface of the skin. This can be known as varicose veins. This is frequent in servers, nurses, and other workers that stand for a long time.
It may seem like standing can lead to several pounds of lost weight, but it may take some time, maybe even a few years before you can get to that point. According to Bloomberg, 50 calories can be burned a day, which amounts to about 22 pounds over the course of 4 years (still beats how much weight you can lose while sitting though!).
Standing desks are still a relatively new concept, so there aren’t many studies on their long-term effects. One article strongly suggests that many of the existing studies were flawed: either in sample size, length of study, or just overall poor research design. We may have to wait for more accurate and insightful reports to determine the true impact of standing desks.
Standing desks can be quite the investment, but it can ultimately be a very rewarding one. Our modern work culture encourages us to stay seated for long periods on the computer, but only recently are we discovering how dangerous that can be. While standing for the full day won’t make you suddenly healthy, it’s important to switch up your work habits from constant sitting to light pacing, standing, and even breaks to walk around the block. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you avoid staying hunched and completely sedentary while working.