Six Benefits of a Standing Desk
As an office worker, standing while you work might seem like one of those things you’re grateful to avoid. While employees in shops, factories and warehouses habitually complain of having sore feet by the end of a shift, many office-based staff are happy to have the comfort of a chair throughout the working day.
Yet sitting as you work isn’t the great perk many of us think it is. Sitting down for long periods without regular breaks to stretch and exercise is far from good for our health.
You might assume that things like back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders are occupational hazards only in jobs that involve heavy lifting. But a third of UK office workers complain of back problems, mostly caused by poor posture as they sit at their desk.
Similarly, Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is a common issue that affects people’s hands, wrists and arms when working at a computer for long periods of time with their arms in unnatural positions. Close to half a million UK workers suffer from some form of RSI. It leads to five million days lost to sick leave every year.
There are various measures you can take to reduce these risks. The one that surprises most people is standing while you work at your computer. How does that work?
With a standing office desk, you raise the height of your desk surface so your computer and other equipment are within easy reach while you stand. Many versions are height adjustable so you can easily switch between sitting and standing. These are often known as ‘sit-stand’ desks.
But is standing, or switching at intervals between sitting and standing, really enough to reduce the risks of musculoskeletal injuries? In a word, yes. Plus, standing office desks bring a number of other benefits. So, whether you're starting a new job or rethinking your offic space, here are six reasons why they are worth investing in for your office.
Improve your posture
It’s hard to maintain a healthy posture in a sitting position. Human beings have evolved to be on two legs. It governs how our musculoskeletal system is designed and it gives us our most natural, most healthy posture. As long as you get your computer screen at the right height, we find it much easier to keep our heads up when standing. Our backs are straight, and we extend our arms in a much more natural, comfortable way.
Relieve back pain
Most of the health benefits of a standing office desk stem from improved posture. Ever get a stiff or sore back after a long day sat in front of the computer? It will be because your back is never quite straight in a seating position and your muscles have to work harder to support it. Standing straightens everything out and lets your muscles relax.
Get some exercise
The idea of a standing desk is not to spend eight hours straight on your feet tapping away at your laptop. That would also create stress in your body, not least the pressure it would put on your legs and feet. The idea of a standing office desk is to give you the option to switch between sitting and standing. Hence the name ‘sit-stand’ desk. Standing desks are height adjustable for easy switching.
Changing from sitting to standing activates different muscles while giving other parts of your body rest. It might not sound much, but regular switching between sitting and standing gives your body a little bit of exercise that helps maintain better physical health.
The combination of better posture and regular movement as you switch between sitting and standing is great for your circulation. First, your heart pumps that little bit harder, which is great for lowering your blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy. Second, you get more oxygen-rich blood to your organs and limbs, boosting your metabolism, improving your overall health and providing a welcome energy kick.
Raise your productivity and concentration
That extra energy kick you get from better circulation and feeding more oxygen to every part of your body also works wonders for performance. In one study, two-thirds of workers who started using standing desks reported a noticeable uplift in their productivity.
There are very good scientific reasons for this. When your brain is fed more oxygen, you become more alert, you tire less. You maintain focus for longer. Some people even report standing increases their creativity. Again, it’s all a function of that sharper brain that comes from better circulation.
Reduce stress levels
The stereotype is that office work is ideal for people who like to live life at a more laid back pace. What could be stressful about sitting in a chair all day? But actually, sitting down for hours on end is associated with increased stress levels. The combination of poor posture, poor circulation and aching muscles in your back, neck and arms from spending too long in unnatural positions creates stress.
As you tire, your body tries to compensate by releasing stress hormones that try to boost your metabolism. But it’s a temporary fix, and you end up feeling washed out and irritable. The flipside is, the more relaxed you are, the more natural your posture, the better your circulation and the more you move around, the less likely your body is to need those stress hormones.