Did you know that an average person spends almost 80% of their day in a sedentary state? Let’s look at a typical day of an office worker. They wake up, brush their teeth and get ready for work. They get in their car and head over to the office where they sit for most of the day, followed by — once again, driving home in the sitting position. Once at home, they sit down to eat dinner and relax on the couch to catch up on their favorite Netflix series. Afterwards, they go back to sleep and the vicious circle repeats. Even if they manage to get a workout in somewhere in between, a large majority of their day is, inevitably — spent sitting down.
So, what’s the issue with all of this? Well, in recent years more and more scientific data suggests that, in the long term, sitting could cause serious detrimental impact to one’s health and well being. In fact, as Dr. Levine referred to it in one of his studies (1), “Sitting is the new smoking”. Just by taking a high level glance at the medical research data, it becomes apparent that those two smoking and sitting share a lot in common when it comes to increasing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
What is behind these adverse effects? As we explore further, the root cause points to the sedentary lifestyle. What can we do to counter them? The quick answer — become more active. Anything we can do to add more activity to our lives will tip the scales in our favor. This is where the standing desk comes in. A standing desk allows your body to stay more active throughout the day while staying energized and more productive. Over time, this small change can amount to a plethora of health benefits including weight loss, lower blood sugar, lowered risk of heart disease, reduced back pain, improved mood and finally — extended lifespan.
Standing helps with weight loss
A recent study (2) has been conducted in the University of Chester where 10 office workers were asked to stand for a minimum of three hours each day for one week. They were asked to wear an accelerometer to record their physical activity, a heart rate monitor and glucose monitors to keep track of their blood sugar levels. The researchers found the results to be quite staggering. They noticed that following a meal, the blood glucose levels have normalized much faster during the periods when the participants were standing. Another interesting discovery has been made when comparing heart rates. While standing, the participants’ heart rate was on average 10 beats per minute higher, which translates to about 50 calories per hour. Over a year span, that would add up to about 30,000 calories and over 8 lbs of fat. "If you want to put that into activity levels," says Dr Buckley, "then that would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year. Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work."
Standing can help control your blood sugar
A similar study (3) has confirmed that standing for 3 hours after lunch reduced the blood sugar spike by 43% compared to sitting for the same amount of time. Optimal insulin sensitivity is important for body composition goals as well as for reducing the risk of developing serious illnesses such as type 2 diabetes. Prolonged sitting has also been linked to a reduction in the activity of the lipase enzyme which is responsible for breaking down blood fats to be used as fuel for muscle. This in turn leads to raised levels of triglycerides and fats in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Standing can lower the risk of heart disease
In the 1950s, researchers examined bus drivers who typically sit at work and bus conductors who are usually standing up. The study concluded with quite alarming results, which showed the bus conductors were on average half as likely to develop heart disease in comparison to their coworkers at the wheel.
Standing can reduce back pain
Sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time has also been linked to back pain. Several studies have been conducted to establish whether switching over to a standing desk would have an effect on this. A 2011 study (4) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the use of a sit-stand desk reduced upper back and neck pain by as much 54% after just one month. Standing up is also known to engage your core muscles more than sitting, thus strengthening them. This can lead to improved overall posture in the long term.
Standing can reduce stress
There is evidence that standing desks can have a positive influence on overall well being and even increase productivity. A study which reported reduced back pain also suggested that 87% of participants using standing desks reported less stress, improved mood and sustained energy throughout the day. Participants also noted that these positive effects had reverted back upon them returning to their old desks.
Standing can increase productivity
Another study (5) has been performed to determine whether standing desks had a negative impact on productivity and ability complete daily tasks such as typing. The study showed no negative effects on daily work tasks and in fact, suggested a potential boost of productivity due to increased energy.
Standing can help you live longer
Finally, a review of 18 studies (6) has been conducted which concluded that people who live a sedentary lifestyle are at a 49% greater risk of dying prematurely. The contributing factors included increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Similar study (7) suggested that by reducing sitting time from the standard six hours to just three hours per day, Americans increase their life expectancy by two years.
With such a plethora of evidence, it easy to see why sitting for prolonged periods of time could be bad for your well being. The great news is that we can all do something about. It is time to sit less and stand more. With the countless mental and physical health benefits, it is evident why switching to a standing desk is the smart choice. So, make that first step to invest in yourself, and while you’re at it — invest in a standing desk.