Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular as the meme spreads that “sitting is killing us”, but how much are you likely to get out of using a standing desk? Will it really change your life, or is it just a fitness fad?
Standing and Productivity
Many people find that it’s hard to adjust to standing at first. If you’re used to reclining comfortably while you’re using a regular desk, then you may find that “engaging your brain” while standing feels odd. Many people end up splitting their time between sitting and standing. They’ll use a chair when they’re doing contemplative things, and then stand when they’re doing more menial tasks. Over time, you can adapt to standing and many people do find that it is more comfortable once they get used to it, but standing is something that you should ease into.
What Happens When You Sit?
Sitting too long can be bad for you. It has been found that excessive sitting is linked to an increased risk of breast and colon cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes. There have been numerous studies conducted on the subject of sitting versus standing, with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., being one of the main places that has been focusing on the issue. They found that substituting sitting with standing can help to reduce the severity of a number of risk factors. Over a four month period, the participants in one of their large studies (830 people) that stood for longer showed a greater reduction in their blood glucose levels and body fat levels compared to those who were not making an effort to get more standing time in.
Can I Really Burn Fat if I Stand Instead of Sitting at My Desk?
Standing desks will help you to burn more calories throughout the day, but the difference is minimal. The average increase in calorie burn from using a standing desk is just 0.2 calories per minute for men, and 0.1 calories per minute for women – that’s 6-12 calories per hour, or 48 – 96 calories per day if you stand for a full eight hour working day.
Essentially, that means a man that stands all day will burn the same number of calories as there are in a small banana. If they were eating ‘at maintenance’, and stood every weekday while at work, then it would take them roughly five weeks to burn one pound of fat.
So, technically it is possible to burn fat by using a standing desk, but the calorie burn would be so low that it’s not really worth thinking about. If you’re going to use a standing desk, then you should do so for the other benefits – the increased alertness and improved circulation, for example.
Sitting Less Helps But Exercise is Better
If you’re concerned about your health and are looking for ways to lose weight and reduce your risk of various diseases then yes, sitting less will help you. Just standing, alone, is not going to turn someone who is quite unfit into a lean, muscular person with a perfect bloodwork, though. For overall health, it is a good idea to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. That could be aerobics, casual sport, exercising in a gym or going for a brisk walk. The important thing is that you find an activity that works for you and try to do it consistently.
Standing at your Desk View desk instead of sitting will help you to think more clearly, will help you be more alert, and it could help in other ways as well, improving your digestion, and even reducing your risk of back pain and other RSI issues.
How to Stand Comfortably
Some people manage to stand by working at a counter top in the kitchen instead of working from a desk in the study. If you want to stand at work, then you may want to make some changes to your desk layout. For example, standing desks that are adjustable will allow you to stand when you are in the mood to do so, and sit when you are feeling fatigued or need to focus a little more.
Do not try to stand at a desk that is set at ‘sitting height’, because this will lead to poor posture which could cause even more problems for you.
One of the main issues with sitting is that when you sit, your abs go un-used and your back muscles might end-up tensing. This is a bad combination which can leave you at risk of muscle imbalances, poor posture, and a condition known as hyperlordosis, where your back becomes curved. Combine this with tight hips, and you might find that you end up with limited range of motion and a shortened stride. Tight hip flexors are actually one of the main reasons that older people slip and fall – and falls are something that can do a lot of damage in the elderly – and are often the start of a loss of independence which leads to other illnesses, and death.
Sitting leaves the glutes relaxed, which is no bad thing in the short term, but if you’re sitting for eight hours a day then you could end up with very weak glutes – which will again impair your circulation and make it harder for you to maintain a good walking pace.
Standing at a desk that is the correct height will force you to maintain a good posture, and this will help you to activate those muscles. Moving around keeps the circulation flowing too. It’s not a heavy workout, but it’s the kind of consistent day to day exercise that will keep you feeling strong and healthy, and that will preserve the muscle that you have for the long term.
Combine this with regular brisk walks and other light activity and you have the start of a great routine that will stand you in good stead as you age, and help you stay mobile.