What are the real benefits of working standing up?

We all know that sitting for hours on end on our derrières is not that good for us. Recent research, although in its early stages, indicates that sitting all day at a desk may increase the risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease and, gulp, early death.
Working sitting down

That’s okay, I hear you say. I’ll just hit the gym for an hour after work. Oh no, exclaim the scientists, you can’t undo the damage of sitting all day with a quick-fix gym workout. Sigh.

What to do?

With so many of us with jobs that require us to be desk-bound for several hours a day, are we doomed to live unhealthy sedentary lifestyles? Or is there a canny alternative?
Enter the standing desk. A nifty way to keep us that little bit more active during the working day. An adjustable desk where you can stand, or sit, or whatever takes your fancy. You may think the standing desk is one of these newfangled ideas, however Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway and Benjamin Franklin all enjoyed working from specially-crafted standing desks.

Winston Churchill standing up desk
Getty Images

Dr James Levine, an American endocrinologist with a specific interest in our movement, or lack of, has spearheaded much of the research and potential benefits of, well, just getting up off your comfy sofa (if you’re lucky enough to work from home), standing and moving about a bit. Doesn’t sound too hard.

What are the real benefits of working standing up?

When you stand or move, as opposed to sitting, you burn more calories, which helps you manage your weight. Simples. Standing or moving also encourages the breakdown of glucose after eating (think about that post-lunch sugar spike in your bloodstream) so you are less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, which can lead to a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Sitting for long periods is also bad news for your heart, with sedentary lifestyles generally leading to higher rates of heart disease.
As if those aren’t reason enough to get up off your tush once in a while, less time sitting may also make you happier. In a seven-week study, respondents used a standing desk and found their mood improved, they felt less stressed, and they had more focus and energy throughout the day. When the standing desks were taken away, the respondents’ moods and stress levels returned to their original state. Sad times.
work standing up desk

How difficult is it to type standing up?

While it may take a little time to adjust (getting your shiny new workstation set up just right is extremely important for your posture – and don’t forget a super comfy cushioned gel mat to stand on) a study has shown that working standing up does not appear to affect typing speed or number of typing errors. Great news for those with jobs where typing speedily and accurately is key, such as transcribers.
It’s best not to stand all day, say scientists. Work up, slowly, to being on your feet for around three to four hours each day, or however long feels comfortable for you. You could try having a standing meeting, if your colleagues are up for it too. Walk over to your colleague’s desk rather than send an IM. Fidget. Stretch. Make a cup of tea (or ten).
It’s all pretty straight forward really. Be aware of how many hours a day you spend sitting. Try to sit less. Try to stand and move more. Feel better and happier and look after yourself. Your mind and your body will thank you for it.

Words by Transcriber Natalie B


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