You may have seen some people use standing desks, also known as stand-up or sit-stand desks, and wondered why they stand while working. Well, based on a number of studies, it is quite clear that standing desks benefit the user in several ways.
Despite the recent boom in standing desks, they are nothing new. People have been using them for centuries. The first person known to use a standing desk was Leonardo da Vinci, who used it during painting but also during his sessions of sketching new inventions. Other famous people on the list are Napoléon Bonaparte, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway to name just a few.
So why did these people choose to work standing up and why do many more choose to do so nowadays? Let’s have a look at the benefits of standing desks.
Since the use of a standing desk reduces sitting time, all the benefits associated with the use stem from the sitting time reduction. Excessive sitting is commonly regarded as detrimental to human health, increasing the risk of chronic disease and ultimately mortality. Therefore, if you can reduce it, you’ll be on the way to greater health and well-being.
But thanks to a large number of studies from the past couple of decades, we are able to talk about more specific benefits you can expect if you decide to use a standing desk yourself.
1. The Use of a Standing Desk Can Improve Mood and Increase Energy Levels
One of the benefits you can expect from using a standing desk is improved mood and increased energy levels as a number of studies suggest.
A 2018 study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) divided 146 office workers into two groups - an intervention group, who were given a height-adjustable workstation, and a control group, who continued to work seated as before (1). The study revealed that the workers who used a standing desk had higher energy levels, better mood, and reported higher overall well-being.
These findings are consistent with two other quality studies. The first one, carried out in 2011, observed changes in the intervention group using standing desks for 4 weeks (2). The results showed that 87% of the workers using standing desks felt energised, 33% felt less stressed and 62% felt happier.
The other study, from 2014, looked at 23 office workers who worked standing up every 30 minutes for 5 workdays and found that they had much higher energy levels than their counterparts who had been only sitting for the same duration (3).
Summary: If you use a standing desk, you can expect to feel better and have more energy as a result!
2. The Use of a Standing Desk Will Reduce Lower Back, Neck, and Upper Back Pain
Many office workers suffer from back and neck pain because of constant sitting. If you also happen to sit a lot on a daily basis and haven’t tried using a standing desk, you may want to do so because a solid body of literature indicates that alternating between sitting and standing reduces the pain in the neck area and in the lower and upper back.
Besides showing improvements in energy and mood, the above-mentioned study from 2014 also demonstrated that lower back pain of the office workers was “significantly reduced” when they frequently alternated between sitting and standing at a standing desk.
This finding has further been supported by other studies, such as a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2016 (4), while other studies have shown that a standing-desk intervention also helps reduce upper back and neck pain (1,2,5).
The reduction in upper back and neck pain can be considerable as a study known as the “Take-a-Stand” project has shown (2). The researchers in this study found out that after four weeks of using a standing desk for slightly more than an hour each day resulted in a 54% decrease in pain in the mentioned areas.
Summary: If you have issues with back and/or neck pain, a standing desk will very likely help you reduce it!
3. The Use of a Standing Desk Will Boost Your Productivity
You may think that despite the great health benefits we have laid out so far, standing will disrupt your regular working style and therefore make you less productive.
On the contrary, studies suggest that alternating between sitting and standing actually increases productivity (1–3). For example, the study from BMJ cited above also discovered that an increase in standing of approximately 83 minutes per day led to greater job performance and work engagement (1).
In another study, 66% of the participants in the intervention group reported more productivity after alternating between standing and sitting on a daily basis.
Unlike the previous studies, one study has looked at one specific task, data entry, and compared the productivity of 60 workers who were either sitting or standing (5). The results showed that there was virtually no difference between the two groups in task productivity.
Are you asking if it’s a bad or good thing? Though standing wasn’t superior in this close-up look at productivity, it didn’t do worse either, meaning that your overall productivity will benefit from integrating standing into your work style. You will have more energy, feel better and have less body pain thanks to standing and be therefore able to work more productively, think and reason more easily as the other studies, looking at the overall picture, have shown.
Summary: Working standing up besides sitting will boost your productivity.
4. The Use of a Standing Desk Will Help Reduce Blood Sugar Spikes
Blood sugar generally increases after you eat some food because some of the ingested macronutrients are degraded into glucose, that is blood sugar, whose level in your blood rises as a result. Sometimes, especially when eating highly processed food, your blood sugar level can increase rapidly, creating a spike.
In the short term, you may experience lethargy and hunger as a consequence, but if your body has to deal with blood sugar spikes, again and again, it may eventually not be able to lower blood sugar effectively, which can lead to type 2 diabetes (6). In a nutshell, you don’t want to experience blood sugar spikes.
A few studies have demonstrated that standing at a desk after eating a meal can help reduce blood sugar and therefore prevent spikes (1,7,8), especially in people who already have issues with blood sugar.
One of the studies recorded that the blood sugar of the workers working at standing desks was 43% lower after 3 hours than that of their sitting counterparts (7).
Though standing for more than 3 hours without a break won’t be achievable for many people, other scientists have looked at alternating standing and sitting in 30-minute bouts in the case of overweight and obese office workers and saw some beneficial effects on blood sugar (8).
The fact that especially those people who are overweight, obese and/or have issues with blood sugar will benefit from more standing has also been supported by other studies (1).
Summary: More standing on a daily basis may help you lower your blood sugar levels and prevent their spikes, especially if you’re already experiencing issues with blood sugar.
5. The Use of a Standing Desk Will Help Prevent Heart Disease
Scientists have been looking into what causes heart disease for decades and one of the major contributors is a sedentary, inactive lifestyle (9,10).
A 2012 meta-analysis identified that sedentary behaviour is associated with a 147% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and with a 90% increase in the risk of cardiovascular mortality (9).
While some people try to compensate for their sitting time at work with structured exercises, like going to the gym or jogging, one study has made it clear that one hour of any kind of exercise won’t negate the negative effects of sitting for several hours each day (11).
What’s more, the researchers recommend engaging in low-intensity activities such as walking at a slow pace or standing, which is more effective for protecting the cardiovascular system than any other form of exercise.
Summary: You will have a much lower chance of developing heart disease if you incorporate standing into your day.
6. The Use of a Standing Desk Is Good for Longevity
Last but not least, if you decide to use a standing desk, you may indeed live longer as some studies indicate (9,12,13).
The meta-analysis mentioned before also showed that physical inactivity is associated with a 49% increase in the risk of all-cause mortality (9), whereas scientists studying the US population have claimed that its life expectancy would be 2 years higher if adults reduced their sitting time (12).
If you need another perspective on how sitting too much is bad, a study following 150,000 older adults for nearly 7 years found that “those who sat at least 12 hours a day had a significantly higher mortality than those who sat for less than five hours” (13).
By and large, it’s pretty evident that we’re sitting too much and that standing more will benefit almost anyone.
Summary: Standing more will increase your chances of living longer, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle.
After reading through the paragraphs above, it should be fairly evident that if you sit too much on a daily basis, you’re doing yourself a disservice and would benefit from incorporating some standing bouts into your lifestyle.
Not only will you protect your cardiovascular system, reduce back and neck pain, increase your chances of living longer, work more productively and feel better, you’ll also bring some novelty into your daily work routine, which is an additional benefit often overlooked.
If you don’t know what standing desk to get, we can highly recommend our hydesk. We have put a lot of effort into developing this mobile, foldable and height-adjustable standing desk, which can be moved from place to place effortlessly.
With hydesk, you can work on your kitchen worktop for some time, then move to your study, living room, office or nearby coworking space. No matter where you will be able to benefit from working standing up.
Edwardson CL, Yates T, Biddle SJH, Davies MJ, Dunstan DW, Esliger DW, et al. Effectiveness of the Stand More AT (SMArT) Work intervention: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2018 Oct 10;363:k3870.
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Ognibene GT, Torres W, von Eyben R, Horst KC. Impact of a Sit-Stand Workstation on Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a Randomized Trial. J Occup Environ Med. 2016 Mar;58(3):287–93.
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Thorp AA, Kingwell BA, Sethi P, Hammond L, Owen N, Dunstan DW. Alternating Bouts of Sitting and Standing Attenuate Postprandial Glucose Responses. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2014 Nov;46(11):2053–61.
Wilmot EG, Edwardson CL, Achana FA, Davies MJ, Gorely T, Gray LJ, et al. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetologia. 2012 Nov 1;55(11):2895–905.
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Duvivier BMFM, Schaper NC, Bremers MA, van Crombrugge G, Menheere PPCA, Kars M, et al. Minimal intensity physical activity (standing and walking) of longer duration improves insulin action and plasma lipids more than shorter periods of moderate to vigorous exercise (cycling) in sedentary subjects when energy expenditure is comparable. PloS One. 2013;8(2):e55542.
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Healthcare Triage. Do Standing Desks’ Benefits Stand Up to Research? [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2021 Oct 27]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0ecRdZtJOY