We have seen an increase in the popularity of standing desks. The phenomenon is not new. Thomas Jefferson had one made for him by a Williamsburg cabinetmaker. Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill had them too.
More recently, they are being used by those workers who want to be healthier and more productive.
Mark Benden, Ph.D., a professor in environmental and occupational health at Texas A&M School of Public Health, tested these ideas. First, he looked at two different groups of call center workers. One group sat at traditional desks, while the second group could control the height. He found that those with stand-capable workstations stood about 1.5 hours longer per day and were 42 percent more productive than those who worked at seated desks.
“By being up more of the time, we improve blood flow to the brain and circulation to the body, and these things combine to make the brain more active and engaged,” Benden says.
Other studies published by the Journal of Physical Activity and Health report that:
- While sitting, study subjects burned 80 calories/hour — about the same as typing or watching TV
- While standing, the number of calories burned was only slightly higher than while sitting — about 88 calories/hour
- Walking burned 210 calories/hour.
So, should you ask for a standing desk at work or invest in one for your home office? There are other factors to consider.
There is a concern that after working on computers at standing desks for two hours, study participants reported “discomfort,” “muscle fatigue,” and “lower limb swelling.”
The discrepancy in studies may come from who is studied. For example, younger workers may be more physically fit and less prone to physical problems.
There is also evidence that getting up from your sitting desk and taking a quick walk around the office might be just as beneficial. For example, the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that people who walked around for two minutes every hour had a 33% lower risk of premature death than their more sedentary peers.
As a result, before you purchase a standing desk, you might want to elevate your computer or try someone else’s setup.
If you do try a desk, the pros recommend that you make sure that the desk is not too high or low when raised. Raise your desk to the height of your elbows and ensure your elbows can remain close to your body. You’ll know your desk is too high when your elbows begin to pull away from your body to reach the keyboard. Your keyboard should be raised as high as it goes and tilts upwards for better viewing. To maintain your comfort level, have a small stool that you can use when you lift your leg. Finally, make sure that you are wearing comfortable shoes.
While you can find research that demonstrates the advantages of standing desks, it is about your comfort. You will not be more productive or healthy if you are miserable.
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