We wake up, get ready for work, sit in traffic, get to work, sit at a desk, take a short lunch break, sit at a desk some more, then it’s back into the car to sit in traffic again. Is it any wonder that much of our culture is sluggish, unmotivated, and just plain tired?
These days, most of us actually spend more time sitting than we do standing and being active. Even after a long day of sitting at work, we often come home and sit in front of the TV in an attempt to unwind from the day.
While some of us may think we have an active life if we spend an hour in the gym each day, this simply does not counterbalance the sedentary behaviors of a seated daily workflow.
So how do we balance our daily job with finding a more active lifestyle? Enter standing desks.
A standing desk is exactly what it sounds like: a desk that is designed to be used by a person while standing upright. New research shows that prolonged sitting is extremely detrimental to overall health.
Dr. Levine, a co-director of the Obesity Initiative for the Mayo Clinic, says there are at least 24 different chronic diseases and conditions associated with excess sitting. (1) Workplaces, schools, and even modern conveniences favor sitting (drive-through banks, drive-through restaurants), but more and more studies are illustrating the physiological implications of being excessively sedentary. (2)
While it’s hard to completely get away from a modern life – especially if your daily job keeps you confined to an office – there are certainly workarounds that can still leave us productive, while getting healthier at the same time.
Our bodies are designed for regular movement, but Americans spend an average of nine to 10 hours each day sitting. While standing desks have several health benefits that extend well beyond the scope of this article, here are the seven most crucial reasons why you need to start standing while you work.
Research shows that prolonged sitting is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. (3) The adverse effects of total sitting time impacts cardiovascular health and is associated with several disease risk factors. According to a science advisory from the American Heart Association, even people who exercise regularly could be at increased risk for heart disease and stroke if they spend lots of time sitting. Prolonged sedentary time is bad for your heart and blood vessels regardless of how much physical activity you get. (4)
As a culture, we are moving less and sitting more. Coupled with mindless snacking and stress-induced poor food choices, it’s no wonder that the obesity epidemic really shows no signs of slowing.
Recent research showed that people who increased habitual walking and standing burn more fat versus those who stay seated significantly more and actually gain the most body fat. Breaking up sitting time can improve glucose levels and balance, which plays an important role in weight management. (5)
Sedentary behaviors have been linked with adverse long-term effects like poor cognitive development and function. Decreased blood flow to the brain – which can happen after prolonged bouts of sitting – can decrease the expression of neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for the survival, development, and health of our neurons.
BDNF is important for learning and memory and is responsible for the growth of brain cells. Sitting for long periods of time, day in and day out, can literally harm your brain’s cells! Physical inactivity can also cause the body to release less norepinephrine, which decreases mental alertness and brain function. (6)
Prolonged sitting adversely impacts bone growth and has been associated with lower bone mineral density and osteoporosis. Research has found that being seated alters the activation patterns of multiple weight-bearing muscles and therefore, excessive disuse is associated with adverse back curvature, back pain, and even upper extremity problems like carpal tunnel syndrome. (7)
Sitting a lot has been linked to low energy levels. This is because sensory inputs from muscles, joints, tendons, nerves, metabolic systems, and brain regions can alter energy pathways. Sitting for too long can decrease blood flow throughout the body, particularly decreased cerebral blood flow, which can make you feel fatigued, sleepy, and lethargic, even after you’ve visited the coffee pot several times. (8)
While we place a lot of emphasis on the importance of fiber and digestive health, research is finding that body posture can affect abdominal bloating, distension, and flatulence. When we are sitting all day, not only do we forget about keeping our core tight and our spine erect, but we also end up being slouched over, which puts a good amount of strain on intestinal transit. (9)
Work-related neck disorders are quite common these days in office workers, especially in those who use a computer daily. In a recent study, 512 office workers were studied for 12 months regarding neck pain. The research concluded that the prevalence of neck pain in office workers was three times greater in persons older than 30, with women having a two-fold risk compared to men. Holding the neck in a forward bent position for a prolonged time while sitting was associated with neck pain, and that’s pretty much the only way that we sit while we are working at a desk. (10)
Upgrade your office life (and health) with these different standing desk options.
While this is a bit of an initial financial investment, the return on your health will be tenfold. This is the best overall standing desk thanks to its durability and lift capabilities. It is also scratch resistant and has plenty of room for a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. It comes in four different colors and has a six-button memory controller and pre-set height ranges.
This is the best budget-friendly option and allows you to convert a regular desk to a standing one, which is perfect for office situations where you can’t just haul in an entirely new work surface. The Stand Steady desk is simple and effective. It is lightweight and can support up to 75 pounds of computer and work equipment. and it can be set up without any tools in five minutes or less.
This is the perfect option if you are tight on space and looking for something a little more compact. This sit-stand workstation makes switching back and forth between seated or standing rather easy. You don’t need any special tools to put it together, and it comes fully assembled when it is shipped to you! There is a separate keyboard tray and if you find yourself needing a little extra height for your monitor, you can purchase the tall user kit, all with a five year guaranteed warranty.
If purchasing a standing desk is not a viable option for you, you can find effective ways to improvise while making improvements to your work environment.
If you have a laptop, simply stand up and find a surface that allows your wrists to be straight while typing.
If you want to remain at your existing desk, you can also place a pile of books on top of each other until you reach the desired working height, or rely on other options, like boxes, plastic crates, or anything else that offers height and a semi-durable surface. It might not be the prettiest, but it’ll get the job done, cut down on your sitting hours, and work toward improving your health – all without spending a dime.
Sitting is detrimental to health on many levels, but especially when you sit for nearly an entire day in an office. Finding ways to increase your standing and walking time will help boost your mood and your physical well-being without taking time out of your already jam-packed work day.
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