Two recent articles in the New York Times have highlighted one of the inherent detriments of the typical 9 to 5 job: prolonged sitting is bad for your health. Many options now exists for standing while working, including an adjustable desk that can allow you to change positions over the course of the day.
Research has shown that people who stand at work tend to be much healthier than those who sit. Extended periods of sitting, thus being sedentary, can lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One study found that a woman’s risk of developing metabolic syndrome increased 26% for every extra hour of sitting. Prolonged sitting in an upright position can place strain on the back resulting in chronic pain. Blood clots are another risk of being inactive.
Periods of standing throughout the day can improve circulation, muscle tone and vitality. The increased weight bearing on the skeleton is good for maintaining bone strength. You may even lose weight. Standing for just two hours during an average workday can burn an extra 280 calories. In one year, that could potentially provide a weight loss of around 20 pounds. Research has also shown an improvement in the metabolism of fats and sugars, which results in an improved lean body mass to fat ratio.
Getting out of your chair can also offer psychological and productivity benefits. Standing while you work improves concentration by increasing blood flow to the brain. Many who stand state that their thinking is clearer and they have an improved ability to focus on problems. Some also report feelings of improved self-esteem and social development.
There are several options for accomplishing standing at work. Initially, one could use props or books to elevate the computer on an existing desk to a height that is comfortable. However, this in some cases may not be workable or ergonomically correct. NYT writer Farhad Manjoo suggests standing at a kitchen island or counter, if one is available, however, he did note that because the height wasn’t exactly correct, he suffered some neck strain and pain. Novelist Philip Roth used a lectern as a desk.
In recent years, many office supply companies have begun offering stand-up desks. There are many styles and price ranges to choose from. Amish Country Furniture Sales offers 29 different custom made, beautifully created wooden furniture, ranging in price from around $800 to $2000. A more flexible, and less expensive option is the GeekDesk (recommended in the New York Times), which is equipped with an electric motor that lifts at a speed of 1.1” per second for adjusting height between standing and sitting. The original full-desk sized model costs $799, but the company also offers a “mini” for $749. If you are handy, you can purchase just the frame for $549 and build the top yourself.
There is also an option for a desk attached to a treadmill for those ultimate multi-taskers.
Not ready for a stand-up desk? Just try making yourself move around more when you walk. Set audible reminders on your calendar, watch, or cellphone to get up and move around for 5 to 10 minutes for each hour of work.