Can Using a Stand Up Desk Help Your Health?

Shoshana Hebshi-Holt
Woman working at stand up desk

With the growing interest in health and wellness in the workplace, many employers are providing stand-up workstations for employees. Studies have discussed benefits of standing up periodically throughout the workday to help avoid chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Taking this notion a step further by standing for most of the day can boost your metabolism, mood and productivity.

Stand Up Desks for Better Health

Sitting all day or for prolonged periods of time can be bad for your health. Enter the stand up desk, a workstation that allows you to be more active throughout the workday, increasing calorie consumption and maintaining good circulation throughout the body.

Stand up desks are mainstream now, according to Mayo Clinic researcher James Levine, partially attributing to the rising cost of health care and the preventative value of these workstations.

Before you go out and buy a new desk, revamp your workstation and adopt this completely new way of spending a good chunk of your day, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Small Changes to Standing

Going from sitting all day to standing all day is quite a change for your body. It will take some adaptation and, perhaps, baby steps.

  • Before revamping your workstation, prepare your body by standing for longer periods of time during the day. Maybe take phone calls standing or stand during breaks. Gradually increase the time you spend standing during the day.
  • Invest in a cheap stand up desk or an adjustable-height desk before taking the plunge and purchasing an expensive desk costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. You can also make one yourself with a little innovation.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable at work in this new situation. You'll be at a new altitude, more exposed to coworkers and might lose some privacy.
  • Standing more at work could decrease your overall energy level throughout the day. Don't be surprised if you're too tired to workout at the end of the day. But research shows that continued activity throughout the day instead of sitting for long periods of time has a greater impact on improving health than tacking on a workout once a day.

Benefits

After two years of using a stand up desk, exercise app developer Arshad Chowdhury reported on his blog improvement in his posture, increased leg strength, more movement in his workday and no more back pain. Chowdhury's experience is not unique. Others have noted other benefits of switching to a stand-up desk during their workday, including:

  • Weight loss: Gina Trapani says she lost three to five pounds in the first week of using her stand-up desk.
  • Less or no back and neck pain: Unloading pressure to the vertebrae caused by sitting has helped people reduce pain in their backs. A cohort of scientists found that sitting less also decreases neck pain.
  • Increased calorie burn: While standing increases daily calorie expenditure just minimally, it can add up fast over the span of weeks and months.
  • Better focus/productivity: Writers and editors who tested versions of stand-up desks recorded boosts in energy and concentration, while experiencing a decline in headaches and fatigue, or energy slumps.
  • Improved posture: You might take to balancing a book on your head to prove your point to coworkers once you start standing more.
  • Lower risk for heart disease and cancer: Researchers have studied how sitting leads to poor health, and Dr. James Levine poses the idea of standing more to reduce the chances of chronic illness.
  • Reduce risk of early mortality: To go a step further, the more active you are during the day the less likely you are to die young.

Keep Moving

Even though stand-up desk proponents and studies show standing at work is better for you than sitting all day, you still need to move around periodically to promote healthy circulation.

  • Cornell University ergonomics professor Alan Hedge says standing can be fatiguing on the muscles, and it is a good idea to move around every 20 minutes or so.
  • Hedge promotes the idea of using an adjustable-height desk, at which you can sit and stand, and incorporating movement into the day.

You will increase your health by standing up more during the workday. Whether that takes the form of a stand-up workstation or being more active at regular intervals throughout the day comes down to personal preference. But, whatever you do, make sure to keep moving.

Can Using a Stand Up Desk Help Your Health?