Not a week goes by that we don’t see an article about the health hazards of sitting. This is particularly worrying given that many Europeans lead sedentary lifestyles, largely because they sit for hours and hours at work. And thanks to these reports, more and more people are getting up from their seats and using a standing desk in the hope that this standing desk will benefit their health at work.
However, is this standing desk trend as healthy as sitting is unhealthy? Considering the avalanche of studies claiming that sitting is the cause of all your health and weight problems, it’s easy to think so. But recent research suggests that the benefits of standing desks may not be so obvious. Here are the good practices of the standing desk.
The advantages of the standing desk
Let’s start with the positives we know about the benefits of standing desks.
1. May Increase Life Expectancy
A November 2015 analysis published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine looked at 54 surveys of time spent sitting, taking into account population size, life table and deaths in the countries where the surveys were conducted. carried out. The researchers found that time spent sitting more than three hours a day was responsible for 3.8% of all-cause mortality (about 433,000 deaths per year) in these 54 countries. All-cause mortality from time spent sitting was highest in countries in the Western Pacific region, followed by countries in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean, Americas, and Southeast Asia. Eliminating time spent sitting would increase life expectancy by 0.2 years in these countries.
The researchers concluded that reducing time spent in a sitting position may play a role in promoting an active lifestyle, which in turn may help prevent premature death. Of course, other factors could be at play here, but simply reducing the time spent sitting has a beneficial effect. Combining standing with the benefits of exercise can potentially increase life expectancy even further. You can try different types of exercises to do at your desk to reinforce the standing benefits you seek.
2. Reduce the risk of chronic diseases
Again, we know that sitting can harm your heart, vascular function, and other functions. Conversely, standing may help limit this damage to some extent, adding to the list of standing desk benefits a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases. For example, in an American Heart Association study, 82,695 men aged 45 and older participating in the California Men’s Healthy Study without prevalent heart failure were followed for 10 years, examining physical activity, time to physical inactivity and behavioral variables from questionnaires.
Nearly 3,500 men were diagnosed with heart failure over an average period of 7.8 years. Taking into account different variables, those who had the least physical activity and the most sedentary time were at the highest risk of heart failure, in addition to coronary heart disease. Nor are these risks from prolonged sitting and inactivity unique to adults or men. A November 2015 study published in Experimental Physiology found that increasing sedentary time also increases cardiovascular risk in children. A three-hour period of uninterrupted sitting caused a 33% reduction in vascular function in young girls. All the more alarming since children spend more than 60% of their waking day in a sedentary position.
This is one more reason to get up and move from an early age.
3. Improves Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Levels
A study from the University of Queensland, Australia, found that spending two more hours a day standing rather than sitting was associated with about a 2% drop in average fasting blood sugar levels and 11% of the average level of triglycerides in the blood. Those extra two hours of standing were also associated with lower bad cholesterol and higher good HDL cholesterol.
So you can add maintaining normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels to the list of potential standing desk benefits.
4. Can Boost Productivity
Having a standing workstation has been linked to reduced sedentary behavior, but can it actually improve workplace productivity? A study published in IIE Transactions on Occupational Ergonomics and Human Factors suggests that, yes, working at a standing desk improves productivity.
The study compared objective measures of productivity between workers who use a standing desk and a control group seated in a call center for six months for 167 employees. The results revealed that workers whose desks allow standing were about 45% more productive on a daily basis than those who remained seated.
Even better ?
Furthermore, the productivity of users of standing desks increased significantly over time, increasing from ∼approximately 23% during the 1st month to 53% during the following 6 months.
Standing Desk Precautions
While we know sitting for prolonged periods of time can be harmful and the benefits of standing desks are real, that doesn’t mean standing desks are a panacea—far from it. In fact, prolonged standing carries its own risks and does not necessarily improve health as much as one might think. For starters, there is little real, proven evidence that the benefits of standing desks are actually due to standing. In fact, using a standing desk has not been 100% verified to prevent or reverse the ill effects of sitting for hours.
Many of the existing studies show conflicting conclusions and others are too small to be significant or have not been randomized and controlled. In addition, research conducted by the Department of Surveillance and Epidemiology at the National Institute of Occupational Health in Denmark found that prolonged standing at work is associated with the development of varicose veins and related diseases.
Second, contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that using a standing desk is beneficial for your waistline. According to a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Department of Health and Physical Activity at the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, standing for 15 minutes rather than s Sitting for 15 minutes only burned about two additional calories and, ultimately, “replacing periods of sitting with periods of standing may not affect energy expenditure.” »
This means that if you’re looking to lose weight and you think standing rather than sitting is the way to do it, you might be in for a nasty surprise.
Better alternatives to standing desk benefits?
Just because standing doesn’t help you lose weight doesn’t mean you have to give up your standing workstation. Standing can still be very beneficial to your health, and recent research has even revealed what is believed to be the ideal amount of time to stand in order to reap the maximum benefits from a standing desk. According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, standing at work is beneficial for health and productivity, and it is best to stand for two hours spread over the entire working day. This way, you’re neither sitting too long nor standing too long, mitigating the negative effects and maximizing the benefits of rest and standing.
However, there’s an even better way to get the most out of your workday and lose weight. The University of Pittsburgh study referenced above and published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that while standing did not necessarily increase energy expenditure compared to sitting, walking instead of sitting or standing did. In fact, walking for 15 or 30 minutes dramatically increases energy expenditure, which is good for your health.
This makes sense, of course, since the effectiveness of walking for weight loss is proven. Ultimately, it’s about reversing the sedentary lifestyle and getting moving. This is why it makes sense that standing provides additional benefits that sitting does not, since it promotes movement, and also why walking and moving is superior to standing.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of the Standing Desk
Research indicates that we spend over 50% of our waking hours in a sedentary position, and we know that a sedentary lifestyle is dangerous to our health. Since standing promotes a more active lifestyle, the benefits of standing desks can increase life expectancy, reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and increase productivity.
Experts agree that the ideal way to maximize the benefits of standing is to stand for an extra two hours, spread out over the entire workday. However, there is little direct evidence that standing by itself can prevent or reverse the damage caused by sitting, and standing does little to promote weight loss compared to sitting. The good news is that standing combined with walking has positive effects on weight loss and energy expenditure, which is why walking should also be incorporated into your workday.
Ultimately, the human body is made to move, so try these exercise tips to incorporate more physical activity into your workday and maximize the benefits of a standing desk for improving overall health.