Standing desks are great for many reasons, but people are still concerned about their benefits. Before you decide to purchase a standing desk, you may want to know if they are good for work and whether they are better for working than sitting.
Before we get started, you should check out this awesome video about standing versus sitting at work!
Is Standing Good for Work?
Standing can be beneficial for work because there is evidence that suggests that working while standing can improve overall productivity. One study on the matter found that there was an increase in performance for the participants who used standing desks over a 6 month period. The people who utilized the standing desks were 53 percent more productive than the participants who used traditional, sitting desks.
A separate study that focused on students found that the participants who used standing desks were 12 percent more engaged than their sitting peers. Since the purpose of work is to remain engaged and be productive, it only follows that we should use standing desks while we are working.
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The reason for the increase in productivity may be due to the fact that there is a boost in cognition associated with using a standing desk. People who use a standing desk may have improved memory and focus than those that sit. There is also a reduction in pain when switching from sitting to standing that may contribute to the rise in productivity because pain can be distracting.
However, there are other factors that you may be curious about when it comes to switching to a standing desk for your job.
Why is Sitting Down Bad for You?
There are a lot of negative things that are associated with sitting too much. Sitting uses less energy and burns less calories. This can increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other related issues including diabetes. In fact, research shows that there is 112 percent more risk of developing diabetes when there is excessive sitting involved.
There is a 147 percent increase in risk for heart attack or stroke from long periods of sitting. There is even a connection between sitting and cancer risk.
The research does indicate that these problems only arise with extended amounts of sitting. However, many people sit all day and the solution is to buy an adjustable standing desk that you can use to alternate between standing and sitting throughout each work day.
Sitting can also diminish our muscle mass and structure, weaken back and hip muscles, and reduce flexibility. The muscle movement from standing is also related to the digestion of sugars and fats. When we sit, we may not digest these things correctly which can lead to weight gain.
However, even though sitting is unhealthy, there are some other things to know about standing too much.
Can Standing Desks Hurt Your Back?
Since many people wonder if a switch to a standing desk will help their back pain, it is important to know whether a standing desk can also hurt your back. The research on the matter is not completely clear.
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One study from 2018 did find a reduction in back pain from the use of an adjustable standing desk. The participants who used the standing desk to reduce sedentary behavior had a significant reduction in back pain. In fact, there was a 50 percent decrease in lower back pain during the study.
However, other research has found that the opposite was true and that the use of a standing desk may put some individuals at risk of developing lower back pain. The study had 40 participants who never had lower back pain issues prior to the research. When the study concluded, it found that 40 percent of the participants developed lower back pain and that when the participants were already fatigued they were not able to recover muscle strength while they were standing.
There is also a connection between heart disease and excessive standing that you should be aware of. If sitting is bad for you, but standing can cause other problems, what can be done?
There is a solution to this problem even though extended periods of both standing and sitting can cause it. There are two keys to the problem. The first is to never go from sitting all day straight to standing all day. Instead, you should gradually increase standing time by 5 or ten minutes per hour. For example, one day you may stand five minutes for every 55 minutes of sitting. The next day, you can stand for 10 minutes for every 50 minutes of sitting.
Continue until you are standing and sitting and alternating occasionally throughout the day. Once you get to a 2:1 ratio of sitting to standing then you should be okay to remain there.
However, there is more to the ratio and alternations that need to be taken into consideration.
How Often Should You Switch Between Sitting and Standing?
There are a couple things to consider when it comes to the ratio of sitting to standing and how often you should switch between the two. The first comes just from the fact that alternating between the two is the best way to avoid the health risks associated with them. A combination of standing and sitting at your desk during the day can be the healthiest when compared to doing just one or the other.
The research concludes that you should use a 1:1 to a 2:1 of sitting to standing. This means that you should stand for a half hour every 30 minutes to an hour that you sit. Some people even like to set an alarm to let them know when it is time to alternate. Others like to complete their current task before switching. Do what works for you, but you should also consider how often you switch to hit that optimal ratio.
Switching at regular intervals is the best. This means that even if you hit the ratio by standing for four straight hours then going to sit for four straight hours may be harmful to your health. At the least, this type of habit is not the best for avoiding the unhealthy effects of sitting or standing too much.
There is one final thing to consider. Even if you are alternating between sitting and standing often, you can get more benefits from moving around. So should you get up from your desk whether or not you are currently using it to stand?
How Often Should You Get Up from Your Desk?
Standing desks can be good for you and they can help you avoid the negative impact that sitting can have on your overall health, but you have to alternate between the two. Furthermore, that is not the only consideration to think about.
Standing desks also promote movement which is important for overall health. Moving around can improve your health in numerous ways and when we use a standing desk we are most likely to do so. When we are at a standing desk, we are already in a good position to walk around. However, even when we are sitting, you should try to move around as much as possible without affecting the quality or efficiency of your work.
Moving and exercise is important to maintain a healthy weight. It also helps to prevent cancer, obesity, hypertension, and bone disease. This all goes to reduce the risk of death. Therefore, you should try to get up from your standing desk at least once an hour. However, it also depends on the type of work you're doing because you will also want to remain productive.
One tip is to take a walk around the office (or around the home if you work remotely) to get the benefits of movement and exercise. Taking a walk after lunch can help you get focused again to return to work productively. Experts recommend that we perform moderately intense exercise for at least 150 minutes a week and taking a 10 minute walk 5 days a week takes that total down to 100 minutes which can be easily completed in a couple of workouts.
Also, if you wait to begin moving around and alternating between sitting and standing, you may be more likely to develop back pain and other aches. This can make it more difficult to move around as well. Instead, try to move around as much as possible to prevent the pain in the first place.
Final Thoughts on Standing or Sitting for Work
There are tons of negative health effects associated with sitting too much. However, there are also some health issues that may develop from standing too much including heart disease and back pain. The solution is to regularly alternate between sitting and standing. Doing this will help you avoid the health problems associated with excessive sitting or standing. Finally, you should try to move around as much as possible during the day to reap the benefits that come along with it. If you do these things, then you will surely benefit from the use of a standing desk.