When the Smithsonian Institute and Dr. Axerecommend something, you can be sure the thing is gold-plated and outstanding. The topic of discussion is standing desks, and they have generated a bit of a dust-up between fans and scoffers. No one appears to have developed criteria for the full-on success of a stand-up desk, so what we have to go on is scholarly papers, and the opinions of users. These range from the sensible to the fantastic. Let's take a look at the facts.
Sit-Down Fact: Sedentary lifestyles include sitting at a desk and computer, not just being a couch potato. Gamers, work at home or telecommuting and home business workers are on the list, too, so don't think your home job gets you off the hook. Sedentary bodies are in line for diabetes, obesity, heart attack and stroke.
Standing Desk Fact: Since Americans spend almost six hours a day sitting at the office, the results (obesity, diabetes and so forth) have made people say that sitting is the "new smoking". Studies have seen that those who stand for a portion of the day move around, which triggers weight loss. Those who sit don't.
However, weight problems aren't the only health conditions affected by sitting. Blood sugar and cholesterol levels suffer as well. The metabolism slows, the hormones don't work as well, and the body suffers.
Sitting Down Fact:Sitting means the muscles aren't in use. The metabolism isn't required to burn the sugars, so they sit in the bloodstream, causing the numbers to rise. It's pretty much the same story with cholesterol.
Standing Desk Fact: An Australian study found that standing for two hours lowered fasting blood sugar as well as triglycerides. The study also found that standing for two hours affected good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol for the better.
You wouldn't think back pain came from sitting. After all, there's no pressure or stress on the back, so how could sitting hurt? The curvature of the spine makes the lumbar or lower back stressed when the sitter is slumped in his/her seat. The shoulders slumped over the keyboard added to the exaggerated "C" curve of a slumped sitting body puts tremendous pressure on the lower back.
Sitting Down Fact: When the discs in the thoracic or lower back are not balanced by a sitting body, the fluid-filled sacs shift toward the back of the disc. This squeezes the front of the disc together, and when this situation lasts long enough, there is pain. Standing up to restore the natural curve to the spine as well as a few simple stretches relieves the pain.
Standing Desk Fact: Many studies have been conducted measuring back pain while sitting and standing desks. The Centers for Disease Control or CDC conducted a study which found that a "sit-stand" desk lessened upper back and neck pain by 54 percent after four weeks. The CDC also found that taking away the "sit-stand" desks made the pain come back in as little as two weeks.
How do people using them feel about standing desks? Are they happier at work? More productive? Studies show that they are.
Sitting Down Fact: Mind over body isn't just a catch phrase. When the body is slumped over a desk or slumped in a chair, the mind becomes sad and moody. When someone stands over a sitting person, the sitter feels inferior, a thing bosses use to their advantage. Sitters feel sad because their body is slumped, but their body is slumped because they feel sad, too. It's a vicious circle.
Standing Desk Fact: Studies have shown that persons using standing desks suffered less stress and fatigue than their seated brethren. Eighty-seven percent enjoyed heightened energy levels throughout the day. In fact, when these test subjects returned to their sit down desks, their moods and energy levels reverted to previous conditions.
When you put the facts together, the case for sitting fails abysmally. Good mood, elevated energy levels, no lower back pain, no blood sugar problems or high cholesterol all combine to present a very tidy case for standing desks. Our take: they work.