In offices across the nation, a movement is quickly spreading and gaining in popularity. If you work in a regular office setting, chances are you’ve seen it happening before your very eyes. In an effort to be more health conscious, people are ditching their low worktops and swivel chairs for standing desks and anti-fatigue mats. Why? Research has shown that people will spend a daily average of 5 hours and 41 minutes sitting at their desk and 7 hours sleeping. Consequently, 70% of employees fail to meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Such a sedentary lifestyle has been proven to have detrimental effects on the body, thus incorporating a standing working station into the mix may be a way to increase movement, energy, and alertness, all while improving personal health.
The health concerns linked with prolonged sitting are not few and cannot be undone with trips to the gym. Excessive sitting has been identified as a contributor to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even premature death. For example, our pancreas produces insulin to regulate glucose levels however its efficiency is partly determined by how physically active we are. Having a standing desk would force your body to engage in more movement, preventing glucose levels from reaching high levels and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
In addition, it has also been determined that the production of fat-burning enzymes in the body declines by as much as 90 percent after an hour or more of sitting. Not only does this slow the body’s metabolism but it also lowers HDL (good cholesterol) levels. According to a study done at University of Chester, a standing desk will allow you to burn more calories and reduce your risk of obesity. Those who stand while working have heart rates that are 10 beats per minute higher, burning 0.7 more calories per minute. Depending on how many hours you decide to stand during a typical 8-hour workday, those calories can add up to quite a significant amount!
Other findings have also shown that excessive sitters are 34% more likely to develop heart failure than those who stand and move more in their daily routine. Also, those who are less physically active have higher quantities of biomarkers that have been linked to the development of various types of cancer, especially breast cancer and colon cancer. Overall, prolonged sitting raises the risk of a variety of health issues and ultimately, mortality. In 2012, researchers found that reducing sitting to three hours per day increased the subjects’ life expectancy by two years!
At a macroscopic level, a sedentary lifestyle contributes to many musculoskeletal issues. Sitting for long periods of time puts immense pressure on the spine’s lumbar discs. It has been shown that during sitting, the pressure between lumbar discs increases to 200% of our body weight! Over time, this can lead to muscle shortening, osteoarthritis, and disc degeneration. These may manifest themselves in such symptoms as tension headaches and low back pain. To help prevent muscle contracture and increase blood circulation, it is recommended that one should stand up and move around at least once every hour. With that said, a standing work station may be a great way to maintain good posture, relieve pressure on the spine, and meet the minimum hourly recommendation for movement.
Some scientists and health professionals are still skeptical of whether standing desks are a worthy investment. Not all agree that standing desks are a much better alternative and that they truly minimize sitting time by an effective amount, however there is an increasing amount of research in favor of them and studies are continually being done to confirm findings. In a 2013 study, a multi-component intervention and height-adjustable workstations-only intervention was implemented among a group of desk-based office employees to compare their efficacy in reducing workplace sitting time. It was found that relative to the control group that underwent no intervention, the multi-component group spend 89 less minutes sitting during their 8-hour workday whereas the workstations-only group sat 33 minutes less. Thus, simply having a working desk is not as beneficial as consciously trying to maintain consistent, moderate levels of movement throughout the day.
If you plan to use a standing desk as an alternative for the traditional sit-down desk, there are a few points to keep in mind:
- Ease into it! Keeping a tall stool/chair around is a good idea for those trying out a standing work station for the first time. Sit when needed and get back up on your feet when you feel ready.
- For the best ergonomic results, your computer screen should be at a 20 degree tilt, 20-28 inches from your eyes. Your keyboard should be placed at a height so that your elbows form a 90 degree angle and are close to your body.
- Invest in an anti-fatigue mat to relieve pressure on your body. Standing for long periods of time, especially if you are not used to it, may take a toll on your legs. Having this mat will improve comfort and productivity!
When it comes to prices and options, there is a very wide range to choose from. To explore some tried and true products, check out The Wirecutter for recommendations. If you have a lower budget or prefer to have a DIY option to test out a standing desk, click here for a $22 DIY option using IKEA parts. Offices all across the nation (Silicon Valley especially!) are embracing the standing desk movement as a means to promote employee wellness. Whether you work in an office or want a health-conscious work environment at home, consider a standing workstation as a stepping stone to working towards better health through regular, low-intensity physical activity.
Have questions or back pain from your current work setup? Give us a call at (408) 426-4936 to speak to a chiropractor at our Santa Clara office and we’ll be happy to help!