Five health benefits of a standing desk

There was a time when standing desks were a whimsy—used by eccentrics like Hemingway, Dickens, and Kierkegaard, but rarely seen in ordinary office settings. That has changed, in large part because research has shown that the cumulative effects of sitting all day over years are linked to a range of health problems, from obesity to diabetes to cancer. Because the average office worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes a day sitting at a desk, some people describe the problem with a neat new phrase that’s certainly catchy, but a little hyperbolic: “Sitting is the new way of smoking”.

Much of the research was driven by Mayo Clinic endocrinologist James Levine. “Our lifestyle now is to sit all day and occasionally walk from the parking lot to the office,” he said in a recent phone interview, as he wandered around the living room. “The default is sitting. We need to default to standing.” All of this sounds like the latest health fad, and that’s about it. But a growing body of research by Levine and other scientists confirms that a sedentary lifestyle appears to be detrimental in the long run.
The solution, they say, is not to sit for six hours at work and then go to the gym, as evidence suggests that the negative effects of prolonged sitting cannot be offset by short bouts of vigorous exercise. The answer is to incorporate standing, pacing, and other forms of activity into your routine—where standing at your desk using a standing desk for part of your time is the easiest way. Below is a list of some of the benefits scientists have discovered so far.

corner standing desk

Reduce obesity risk

Levine’s research began with an investigation into an age-old health question: why some people gain weight while others don’t. He and colleagues recruited a group of office workers who had little exercise routine, put them all on the same diet, about 1,000 calories more than they used to eat, and barred them from changing their exercise habits. But despite a standardized diet and exercise regimen, some participants gained weight while others remained lean. Ultimately, the researchers used sensor-stitched underwear to measure every tiny movement, and they uncovered the secret: Participants who didn’t gain weight walked an average of 2.25 hours more per day, even though they were all (sitting) at a table, with no one Go to Gym. “In all of our days, there are more opportunities to move around,” Levine said, citing mundane things like walking to a colleague’s office instead of emailing them, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Failure to take advantage of these constant exercise opportunities has been shown to be closely related to obesity. Research shows that our traditional exercise strategies – sitting and working all day, then going to the gym or running – “hardly make more sense than you can fight a pack of cigarettes a day by jogging” as James Vlashos publishes it In The New York Times. The key to reducing obesity risk is maintaining a consistent, moderate level of exercise throughout the day.
Scientists are still investigating why this is the case. A reduction in the number of calories burned while sitting (a 2013 study found that standing burnt an average of 50 more calories per hour) is clearly involved, but there may also be metabolic changes, such as a weakened response of body cells to insulin, or prolonged Sitting muscles release lower levels of protein lipase.
Of course, this all points to the dangers of sitting for too long, not quite the same as the benefits of standing. But Levin believes the two are closely related.
“The first step is to stand up. The second step is to stand up more often. The third step is, once you stand up, start moving,” he says. “We found that once you stand up, you do move.” So the first and second steps are the most important part,and a stand up desk that encourages you to stand at least some of the time is one of the most convenient ways to do this one.

Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic problems

The adverse health effects of prolonged sitting—and the benefits of standing computer desks—seem to go beyond mere obesity. Some of the same research by Levine and others found that sitting for long periods of time was associated with less effective regulation of glucose levels in the blood, part of a condition called metabolic syndrome that significantly increases the odds of developing type 2 diabetes.
For example, a 2008 study found that people who were sedentary during the day had significantly higher fasting blood sugar levels, suggesting that their cells were less responsive to insulin, a hormone that fails to trigger the absorption of glucose into the blood. A 2013 A study [PDF] made similar findings and concluded that time spent sitting may be a more important risk factor than time spent exercising vigorously in people already at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease

The scientific evidence that sitting is bad for the cardiovascular system dates back to the 1950s, when British researchers compared heart disease rates in London bus drivers (sitting) and bus conductors (standing) and found that the former group experienced far more The latter is more of a heart attack and other problems.
Scientists have since found that adults who sit an extra two hours a day have a 125 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related health problems, including chest pain and heart attack. Other studies have found that men who sit outside work for more than 5 hours a day and do limited exercise have twice the risk of heart failure than those who exercise regularly and sit outside the office for less than 2 hours a day. Even when the researchers controlled for the amount of exercise, people who sat excessively were still 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those who stood or moved.

Reduce the risk of cancer

Few studies suggest that prolonged sitting may increase the risk of several types of cancer. Breast and colon cancers appear to be most affected by physical activity (or lack thereof): A 2011 study found that prolonged sitting may lead to as many as 49,000 breast cancers and 43,000 colon cancers each year in the U.S. But the same study A large number of lung cancers (37,200 cases), prostate cancers (30,600 cases), endometrial cancers (12,000 cases) and ovarian cancers (1,800 cases) were also found to be associated with prolonged sitting. The underlying mechanisms by which prolonged sitting increases cancer risk remain unclear, but scientists have identified a number of biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein, which are higher in people who sit for long periods of time. These may be associated with the development of cancer. Seeing these, don’t you rush to the website to search for electric standing desks?

Reduce long-term risk of death

Due to lower odds of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, many studies have found a strong correlation between how long a person sits and his or her odds of dying within a given time.
For example, a 2010 Australian study found that participants who sat an extra hour a day had an 11% increased risk of death overall during the study period (seven years). A 2012 study found that if the average American reduced their sitting time to three hours a day, life expectancy would increase by two years.
The programs controlled for other factors like diet and exercise — showing that sitting alone can lead to a variety of health problems and increase your overall risk of death, even if you try exercising without sitting and eating healthy eating habits. While there are many situations outside of the office that require us to sit for extended periods of time (for example, driving and watching TV are the most important), spending some time at a standing desk is one of the most common immediate solutions.
If you’re going to start doing this, most experts recommend dividing your time between standing and sitting, as standing all day can cause problems with your back, knees, or feet. The easiest way to do this is to use a height-adjustable desk or a high chair that pulls up to your desk when you need to sit. It’s also important to relax, they say, and start by just standing for a few hours a day to allow your body to adjust to the stress, then change your position, pace, or even dance to move a little while you work.

 

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