Finding your neck, back and shoulders aching after just an hour or two sitting in your office chair? We’ve all been there – hunched over a computer and working hard when that little niggle in your neck starts, then reaches your shoulders before creeping down your back.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you’ve probably wondered about the benefits of standing desks and whether it’s a good option for you (hint: it probably is!).
Numerous studies have found that the best standing desks can:
- Improve work productivity and alertness.
- Reduce mental fatigue.
- Stimulate the thought process.
In this article, I’ll reveal the top 11 benefits of standing desks to help you decide whether you’d like to invest in one, or not.
(Related: 5 Best Monitor Stands In Australia).
1. Standing Desks Help Promote Neurogenesis.
Neurowhat? The creation of new brain cells – that’s what! And standing helps you promote it.
Standing desks increase blood circulation, and this increase in blood flow helps circulate oxygen to the brain, facilitating better cognitive function and working memory.
This increased neural activity:
- Creates information highways that help you take in more information, and retain it.
- Improves how you conceptualise problems, develop solutions and stick to your plan to achieve them.
I’m not saying that a stand-up desk will make you smarter (if only), but the research indicates that they enhance your ability to think and focus on tasks.
(Related: The Pros And Cons Of Standing At Work).
2. Standing Desks Improve Your Memory.
Speaking of your brain, the more you sit, the quicker you effectively kill it.
According to this study, the thickness of your temporal lobe – responsible for spatial cognition and episodic memories – is directly linked to how often you sit or stand.
In fact, the researchers found that simply limiting how much you sit for prolonged periods may be even more important than increasing your physical activity, in terms of brain health.
The study found those adults who stood more often for extended periods throughout the day had thicker and more intact temporal lobes.
3. Stand-Up Desks Make You More Productive.
Standing while working can make you more productive, because you’re naturally more dynamic when upright.
It’s easier to keep your blood pumping, your attention honed, and your attitude positive — as well as move around and collaborate with colleagues.
One six-month study of call centre employees found those using a desk capable of being adjusted to standing height were around 45% more productive on a daily basis (compared to a seated control group).
These productivity gains grew more pronounced the longer employees had access to standing desks.
4. Sit-Stand Desks Can Alleviate Back Pain.
If you have general back issues or back pain, a standing desk can help reduce discomfort in your back by improving your posture and taking pressure off your neck and lower back that can be experienced in the seated position.
However, standing puts pressure on your muscles and joints, which can be tiring and even harmful if you stand for too long or with poor posture.
If you’re using a stand-up desk to help with back discomfort, you’ll need to learn how to stand with proper posture:
- Straight back.
- Head up.
- Shoulders relaxed.
- Tummy in.
- Evenly balanced weight on feet.
- Knees straight.
- Expert Tip.
If you experience lower back pain, consider investing in an ergonomic office chair designed for people with bad backs.
5. Standing Reduces Stress.
Standing helps reduce stress, for a few reasons.
- Firstly, you’re less likely to be stiff and sore, reducing physical stressors that can exacerbate emotional problems.
- Plus, you’ll feel more vigorous and effective in your work, making it easier to handle issues and remain resilient
A 2011 study where office workers were given a sit-stand desk over seven weeks found a dramatic improvement in mood — 62% of participants felt happier, and 33% felt less stressed.
The very mild stress put on the brain by standing improves our ability to cope with certain tasks and reduces our overall stress. Less stress at work improves focus and overall productivity.
6. Standing Counteracts A Sedentary Lifestyle.
Plenty of evidence suggests that a prolonged sitting can cause a range of health issues, including:
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Swollen ankles.
- Heart disease.
- High cholesterol.
- Lung, uterine and colon cancers.
- Heart attacks.
- Poor circulation.
As they say, sitting is the new smoking!
By using a stand-up desk, you are effectively helping counteract all of these health issues caused by too much sitting down.
When you are physically active – including standing – your overall energy levels and endurance improve, and you also improve bone strength.
(Related: How To Clean Your Office Desk Well).
7. Sit-Stand Desks Improve Your Energy Levels Outside Work.
Standing may be a lot less active than the fitness goals you aspire to reach.
Yet, a consultant with the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health, Dr Mike Loosemore, posits that using the small muscles in your legs and body to stand for three hours a day, five days a week, would be the equivalent of running ten marathons a year!
Improving your activity levels at work with a stand-up desk can bleed into your personal life — and how motivated you are to go for a walk in the morning or do an afternoon yoga session.
After all, one of the strongest determinants of whether you’ll choose to be active is whether you’re in the habit of being active.
That’s also supported by research into occupational health at work that found people who sit for longer at work are also more likely to be sedentary outside of work.
8. Standing Improves Creative Problem-Solving.
Shifting your perspective is a powerful way to break through barriers or overcome problems with a task at work.
Sitting all day contributes to a kind of plodding, monotonous mindset that isn’t always conducive to creative insight.
Whereas, being positioned to quickly physically step away from your desk—and let your unconscious mind process a problem—is ideal.
9. Standing Helps Burn More Calories (But Mildly).
Our bodies go to sleep when they’ve been inactive for too long. Your metabolism slows down, as does your calorie-burning capabilities, which puts you at risk for health issues like obesity.
If you don’t exercise regularly or have a generally sedentary lifestyle, sitting every day of your working life can compound the effects of inactivity on the body.
Standing can help counteract that by helping speed up your metabolism.
When sitting, the study subjects burned 80 calories an hour. When standing, the number of calories burned was slightly higher at 88 calories an hour.
Walking, meanwhile, burned 210 calories an hour.
A stand-up desk will help you burn an extra 8 calories an hour, which isn’t much—but adds up over time, considering many of us will spend up to one-third of our lives at work.
10. Standing Desks Improve Your Energy Levels.
Want the energy boost of a cup of coffee minus the inevitable crash? An adjustable standing desk might be the answer.
- A whopping 87% of participants from the Take A Stand study said they had more energy when they used their standing desks at work.
- Meanwhile, an Australian study called Thinking on Your Feet found participants had more energy when standing rather than sitting.
The study found that workers who upped their standing by up to 60 to 90 minutes each day were more active and energised than workers who used traditional desks.
11. Standing Desks Make You A Better Collaborator.
Email and online collaboration platforms have their place.
But in-person negotiation and cooperation on certain tasks can be critical for achieving quality outcomes quickly if you’re working alongside others in an office environment.
Research published in the March 2022 issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, reveals that overuse of text-based communication for complex tasks can cause the recipient of the communication to lose interest and perform worse.
- Sitting too long contributes to a stagnant, cloistered attitude and work culture.
- Standing often encourages you to be more sociable and proactive.
With a stand-up desk, you may feel more prepared to overcome awkwardness to stop by a colleague’s desk to hash out a difficult issue, rather than waste time on a convoluted email.
The Ugly Truth About Standing Desks.
While there are many benefits to standing desks, investing in a standing desk isn’t the be-all and end-all solution to making you healthier and more productive at work.
Standing desks aren’t intended to substitute sitting for standing completely, but rather as a way to get you moving – which is the end goal – you want to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
Standing on your feet all day isn’t much better for your health than sitting all day, as it adds extra stress and strain on your legs and feet.
(Related: Ultimate Home Home Office Setup Guide).
Frequently Asked Questions About Sit-Stand Desks.
I’ve been inundated with questions since I started researching the health benefits of standing desks. Here are the 3 most commonly asked questions and my answers.
1. How does a standing desk work?
Standing desks are desks that are taller than standard desks, allowing you to be in a standing position while working on a computer or laptop.
Most standing desks are adjustable (if you find one that isn’t – it’s not worth the money), so you can find the perfect height for you while standing, and then lower it to the ideal height while sitting.
2. What are the disadvantages of a sit-stand desk?
As with sitting, standing for too long can cause a range of issues, including leg and foot pain from too much pressure on your knees, hips and feet.
You can also experience leg swelling, muscle fatigue and lower back pain.
3. How long should you stand at a standing desk?
Many ergonomic experts suggest standing for 5-15 minutes every 60 minutes when using a standing desk, but this research isn’t definitive.
A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends overall, you should move, stand and take a break from sitting for at least 2 hours in total out of an 8-hour workday.
Final Words About Standing Desk Benefits.
With plenty of evidence unquestionably stacked against sitting, a standing desk is a relatively inexpensive piece of office furniture that can increase your job satisfaction, reduce the chances of weight gain by reducing the amount of time you spend sitting.
And while it won’t solve all your office problems, it can make a major difference to your health today and into the future, so there’s no reason not to give a standing desk a go.