Wellness is on the forefront of everyone’s mind, and workplaces aren’t ignoring that. An estimated 44 percent of business owners increased their employee wellness benefits in 2018, and one of those benefits is bringing standing desks into the office. In fact, nearly 53 percent of employers now offer the standing desk option as an alternative to being sedentary for hours at a time, all according to Society for Human Resource Management.
This trend has gained traction in workplaces across the country, but why are standing desks so popular, and how can using a standing desk impact your own health and performance? Learn everything you need to know about standing desks so you can be your healthiest self—in and out of the office.
Standing desk benefits
A standing desk minimizes the risks of extended sitting
Dr. Neville Owen, a researcher of sedentary behavior at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia, has found that people can spend as many as 15.5 hours sitting each day, as reported by ABC News.
Neville says this prolonged inactivity causes the muscles to become unloaded and catabolized over time which could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. Even people who exercise consistently are not immune to the adverse effects of sitting.
One solution to minimize these health risks is to integrate more opportunities for movement into the work routine, and standing desks are a popular solution. Not only are they better for your muscles, but you increase your calorie-burning power too.
On average, those who habitually stand have a measured heart rate of 10 beats per minute higher than people who more often remain seated, according to BBC. This allows you to burn 50 extra calories each hour! If you stand at a desk for just three hours daily throughout the work week, you’ll burn 75 more calories than if you used a normal desk.
What’s more, if most Americans reduced their amount of sitting time to 2 to 3 hours, each day, their life expectancy would increase by 2 years. By sitting less, we mitigate chronic disease, metabolic issues and unhealthy weight according to the British Medical Journal and Occupational Medicine Journal.
A standing desk reduces pain
If you’re feeling pain in your lower back or joints, a standing desk can be key to reducing that discomfort, says Fletcher Zumbusch, a physical therapist at the Providence St. John’s Health Center in California. He explains:
“Spending less time sitting helps keep the hips from becoming tight. Avoiding hip tightness is important because the loss of hip mobility creates undue stress on adjacent joints. This additional stress can lead to the accelerated development of pain in the joints of the lower back, hip and knees.”
In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Convention launched a study among workers in Minneapolis with sedentary jobs called the Take-a-Stand Project. Over the course of 2 months, participants reduced their sitting time by 224 percent, which totaled to just 66 minutes per day of standing time. This small change alleviated the pressure on their necks and upper backs by a whopping 54 percent. What’s more, the minimal amount of sitting also decreased tension in their shoulders and improved their posture, and 87 percent indicated more physical comfort.
How to stand safely
If you’re ready to take advantage of these benefits, you need to focus on safety first. Despite the health, it’s crucial to remember that moderation is key. In fact, transitioning from a seated position to a standing position for the same amount of time can be equally detrimental.
Alan Hedge, a professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell University says: “Standing too much can compress the spine and lead to lower back problems over time. It can also boost your risk for varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis and other cardiovascular problems since the heart has to work against gravity to keep the blood flowing up from your toes.”
To avoid these potential issues, Hedge recommends a balance of intermittent standing and sitting: 20 minutes of sitting, 8 minutes of standing, and 2 minutes of stretching, plus a short break of walking or other low-impact exertion.
You also want to make sure the height, incline and other ergonomics of the standing desk are adjusted to help you maintain an ideal posture and spinal alignment. Dr. Leo Rozmaryn, a surgeon at the Centers for Advanced Orthopedics explains:
“Both the keyboard and mouse [should be] at belly button height which creates a bend in the arm that is 80 to 85 degrees, a neutral position. The monitor should be approximately 18 inches from the face with the top of the screen at eye-level, so you are looking down 10 to 15 degrees.”
Enjoy your standing desk
Standing desks are great health tools for those who sit at a computer all day. Even better, workplaces are recognizing this value and perhaps you now have access to a standing desk in your office. Use it to be your healthiest self, but make sure to start slow and get the ergonomics right. When you do, your body will thank you.