Originally thought of as eccentric, standing while working was a tactic once used by well-known thinkers. However, as the trend begins to catch on more and more in the workplace, research has found the benefits of standing throughout your workday can help fight obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even forms of cancer.
At first you may think to yourself, “I couldn’t stand for 8 hours – that sounds incredibly tiring,” or “I have back issues, I need to sit.” If you’ve had similar thoughts, you’re in the majority as standing at work all day is often seen as a form of unintended punishment. However, research suggests that standing – or being more active – while at work can help improve muscle and back aches from which you may suffer, as well as create an all-around healthier “you”.
You May Be Doing It Wrong
Now, the more active employees may choose to exercise over their lunch hour or soon after work, but research has shown that these activities don’t help counteract the toll eight hours of sitting can take on your body. According to Smithsonian, instead of strenuous exercise over the lunch hour or immediately after your workday, learn to incorporate standing, pacing and other forms of activity into your normal day—and standing at your desk for part of it is the easiest way of doing so. This isn’t to say stop exercising during off-hours, you just may not be doing your body as much good as you think. Not only does standing more often help you become more active and help promote proper blood flow for longer periods of time, it can also increase focus.
A 2013 study conducted by the Draugiem Group – a Latvian company – decided to put these “increased focus” rumors to the test. According to ReadWrite, Compared to a period of time when a person was not using the standing desk, it was found that standing at a desk led to up to 10% more productivity. This increase of productivity could be chalked up to a sense of urgency, according to ReadWrite. “While standing, you feel a sense of urgency which causes you to be focused on the completion of tasks. This works ideally when you’re working with tasks where you know what the outcome should be, and it’s just a matter of completing it.”
Davis Siksnans, project manager at the Draugiem Group, relays that “I constantly had my to-do list opened and I’d try to get through them all ASAP. The only differences being that while sitting, I spent more time on Facebook and Spotify, which shows us that sitting lets our minds wander more.”
These workplace benefits are great, and should be proof enough to consider incorporating sit-stand workstations into your office. The long-term benefits, however, seem to far outweigh the immediate perks seen at work.
Decreasing Your Obesity Risk
It’s no surprise that America has one of the highest – if not the highest – obesity rate in the entire world. Factors such as diet and lack of exercise are surely to blame, with sedentary work environments being an equal contributor to the obesity epidemic.
MSN.com states that – using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – in 1960, “nearly half the jobs in the private sector required at least moderate physical activity, but in 2010, less than 20 percent demanded this much physical work. Advances in manufacturing and agriculture explain the drop in human energy needed at work.”
“The key to reducing the risk of obesity,” according to Smithsonian, “is consistent, moderate levels of movement throughout the day.” With increased advances throughout different work environments daily tasks are easier and less physical exertion is required to complete certain tasks. Motivation to stand and be active throughout the day is also increasingly up to the worker.
Reducing Cancer Risk
A 2011 article from the L.A. Times states, “Nearly 100,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in the U.S. each year if we all spent less time sitting in our cars, at our desks and on our couches.” Quoted in the article is Neville Owen, who at the time was head of behavioral epidemiology at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia. Owen went on to state, “Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right. It seems highly likely that the longer you sit, the higher your risk. The phenomenon isn’t dependent on body weight or how much exercise people do.”
At the 2011 annual meeting of the American Institute for Cancer Research, Owen presented data showing that adults are sedentary for 9.3 hours of the day, which amounted to 60% of their time spent awake. Another 6.5 hours (or 35% of awake time) were spent in “light activity,” such as walking to one’s car. What can be done to decrease cancer risk due to sitting? You guessed it – be more active at the office. If a sit-stand workspace is out of the question, walk over to a co-workers desk instead of sending an e-mail, go to the water cooler more often than necessary (this will also keep you more hydrated), or simply stand up and walk around more frequently than you do currently. The more you move, the better you’ll feel in the short and long-term.
According to Christine Friedenreich, an epidemiologist at Alberta Health Services Cancer Care in Canada, breast and colon cancer appear to be the cancers most influenced by physical activity. The less physical activity or exertion, the higher your risk of developing these cancers. This is due to higher levels of inflammation caused by staying seated for extended periods of time. The higher levels of inflammation, the greater increased risk of developing cancer.
When Can I Start?
As excited as you may be to start experiencing the benefits of standing more at work, experts suggest workers ease into this new posture. Let your body become used to the strain. As foreign as it may be to many office dwellers, it is equally foreign to your body. Also – move around, shift weight from side to side, stand on one leg, whatever you need to do to stay comfortably standing for extended periods of time. At first, split time between standing and sitting, because actually standing all day can lead to back, knee or foot problems. By using a desk that can be raised, as well as using a tall chair that you can pull up to your desk when you do need to sit, you’ll be able to rest your legs when you feel the need, and stand when you feel like standing.
Becoming A More Health Conscious Workplace
We at Innovative Office Solutions have embraced the idea of a healthy workplace – and encourage employees to be as active as they can, both at work and outside of the office. One of our designers, Melissa, has embraced the idea of a sit-stand workstation. “I enjoy being able to stand whenever I need a change of pace or feel a little restless. My legs feel better after I stand for about an hour. It definitely helps to be able to stand for a bit in the afternoon when I feel a slump. It’s an instant energy boost to be able to stand, in turn keeping me more attentive.”
Melissa uses Trendway Base that comes equipped with a Dual Stage base and control pad with a digital readout which can store up to four pre-set heights. Pre-set heights work well in an area with multiple users, who can all have their comfortable standing height saved.
Some vendors with a more ergonomic focus include Workrite, ESI, Humanscale, Mayline, and Conset. These manufactures offer a large variety of sizes and configurations, with some offering many other ergonomic products like monitor arms and keyboard trays that pair well with the sit-stand bases, creating a more ergonomic posture.
Visit our website to learn how we can outfit your office with sit-stand workstations, and how you and your office workers can begin to experience the positive benefits associated with increased movement throughout the day.