Do you prefer a minimalist desk? Well, maybe you would like the standing desk. Standing desks have been on the rise since about 2010, hitting the peak around 2016. Advocated for standing desks tout that they can help prevent a myriad of health conditions including; obesity, diabetes, heart disease, even cancer. That’s right. Cancer can be prevented by using a standing desk at work.
Here’s the thing, these are all risk factors of a sedentary lifestyle. Sedentary behaviors are defined as any behavior that has an energy expenditure of ≤1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs), while sitting, reclining or lying down. Basically anything that involves sitting with a lowered heart rate, like watching tv, playing video games, using a computer, or reading.
While you are not sitting at this new desk that doesn’t mean you are increasing your energy expenditure. A standing desk is not a fix all, it is an opportunity, a step in the right direction. But nothing can replace exercise as a preventive measure against these health risks.
The Journal of Physical Activity and Health studies found that subjects burned 80 calories/hour, while those who were standing burned 88 calories/hour. Over an 8 hour work day that’s a net of 64 calories, so enjoy your extra half an apple every day.
In this same study they found walking burned 210 calories/hour. So walking to work, walking on your lunch, taking a 15 minute break and walking around the office will show better results than only using a standing desk. While standing at your desk trying to jog in place, find the opportunity for extra movement in your work day.
Freedom from your chair means freedom to move! Fitness bloggers all over the internet are coming out with workouts for standing desks. Things like calf raises, leg extensions, and back twists. Gentle on the body but will help to increase your energy expenditure if done at regular intervals. Standing and keeping your muscles in the same position standing is not different than sitting with them in the same position. Move your muscles to burn calories and find exercise breaks throughout the day.
The standing desk does have one major advantage and that is for posture. Standing is better for lower back pain and pressure on the neck and shoulders. A study from UT Southwestern medical center showed a 50 percent decrease in lower back pain in participants who used a standing desk. Some experts say this relief in back pain is due to arm placement at the standing desk, which keeps hands parallel to the floor instead of at an incline at normal sitting desks. This gives better posture and helps alleviate unnecessary pressure on the back and neck.
There have been some studies that link standing desks to increased productivity and engagement within the workplace. When an employee feels better, they work better. Employers have already started moving in the right direction offering rebates on gym memberships and giving discounts on insurance to nonsmokers. By providing a standing workstation that allows for free movement and improves the way employees’ bodies feel it is expected to see a rise in their productivity. Studies have shown mixed results, in 2015 a study through Texas A&M university showed an increase in productivity by 53 percent for employees using stand capable desks over a 6 month period.
The most important takeaway here is that standing desks provide a great opportunity, but they are not a miracle cure. The best thing you can do to improve a sedentary lifestyle is exercise. Take control of your body and shape your future through the freedom of movement. If you do buy a standing desk, make sure you have a good standing desk frame that can support the desk.