I do a lot of sitting with my work.
My entire business is online, and I spend the vast majority of my work day on my computer.
The studies that have come out in the last few years about the health dangers of sitting so much have really started to bother me. Research links sitting for long periods (whether at work, in front of the TV, or in your car) with obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
The research shows that men who sit six hours or more a day have a death rate 20 percent higher than men who sit for three hours or less. And alarmingly, for women, it’s 40 percent higher.
Even if you spend some time every week at the gym or exercising, it doesn't offset the negative impact of extended sitting. The only solution is getting off your butt and moving around more in general.
But how do you do that if you work at a desk job? It's something that has been on my mind more and more, especially since my writing workload has increased in recent months.
In fact, right now, I'm typing this post while standing at the kitchen counter. Unfortunately, I can tell from the ache in my neck and shoulders that my posture isn't right. I'm looking down at the computer screen with my head tilted forward. This isn't a permanent solution. So I've started investigating the possibility of a standing desk.
From my research, I'll tell you upfront that working all day standing up isn't the solution either. Prolonged standing also has health risks, like carotid atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries) which increase ninefold due to the extra weight on your circulatory system.
You’re also more likely to get varicose veins, which aren't very attractive and cause all sorts of complications. Plus, if you stand for long periods, your knees start to ache, your feet start to feel numb, and it can just get uncomfortable.
So what's the solution? From everything I'm learning, I think the answer is creating a personalized combo package that includes some sitting, some standing, and lots of moving around. For me, and maybe for you as well, getting a standing desk makes a lot of sense. My plan is this:
- Work for an hour or so standing.
- Go walk around or move for 15 minutes.
- Work for an hour or so sitting.
- Get up and move around again for 15 minutes.
- Go back to standing.
- Find time for 30-45 minutes of daily cardio.
- Repeat the switch-up between sitting, standing, and moving all day.
This seems doable to me, and because as a woman I'm 40% more likely to die from sitting a day, I'm highly motivated to follow through.
So let's take a look at some of the benefits of a standing desk:
There haven't been tons of studies on standing desks or treadmill desks, but one Canadian study in January of this year found that both types of desks reduced sedentariness and improved mood without too many productivity complications. Here's what the researchers had to say in a Prevention Magazine article:
Overall, current evidence suggests that both standing and treadmill desks may be effective in improving overall health considering both physiological and mental health components.
Some of the specific physical and emotional benefits revealed in the study include:
Increases energy expended.
Both standing and treadmill desks have clear benefits over sitting (duh). Studies of standing desks found that, on average, users had an average heart-rate increase of more than 8 beats per minute. Oc course the positive impact of a treadmill desk was even greater. Participants walking about 1 mph at their desk showed an average heart-rate increase of more than 12 beats a minute.
Improves “good” cholesterol.
One study revealed that a standing workstation could increase HDL cholesterol. evidence was a bit stronger for treadmill desks. In one study, the participants spent nine months using a walking desk instead of sitting at a desk, and they had significant reductions in both total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Facilitates weight loss.
One study found that participants who used a standing desk for three months did lose weight. However, they didn't have changes in their body composition, such as body mass index. For one year-long intervention with a treadmill desk, including lean, overweight, and obese workers, the 36 participants lost an average of 3 to 7 pounds.
Study participants using active desks had a significant boost in their moods. In a 7-week study of standing desk use, the participants reported less fatigue, tension, confusion, and depression, and more vigor, energy, focus, and happiness. When they went back to using their sitting desks, their overall mood returned to baseline levels.
The studies also show that there isn't any decrease in work performance and no negative impact on cognitive functions like information processing, reading, and attention. In general, the studies underscore that using standing desks allows for steady performance and happier, healthier workers.
The Important Take-Away
The best option for me and many people who sit in their jobs might be a hybrid sit-stand or sit-treadmill workstation. This offers all the benefits of standing but helps you prevent some of the new muscle aches and joint pain that might occur from standing all day. Or you could have two desks, one for sitting and one for standing and/or walking.
The point is you want to find a solution that doesn't leave you on your butt all day or have you standing most of the day. And somewhere during the day, you need to take breaks to move around. Take a walk, do some push ups, run in place, etc.
Standing Desk Options
I've been researching some of the various standing and treadmill desk options. For me, I've decided to stick with a standing desk because a) I don't have room in the house I'm in right now to put a treadmill; and b) it's hard for me to concentrate and walk at the same time. But that's just me. We'll look at all of the options for you. (Full disclosure: I get a small affiliate commission if you purchase through my links.)
Before you purchase a standing desk, you want to make sure that you have the correct posture and viewing distance between you and the monitor. Remember these rules:
A. Your eye level should be even with the top of the monitor.
B. You need a viewing distance between you and the monitor of 15-30 inches.
C. You need to be able to keep your wrists straight.
D. Your elbows should be close to your body and at a 90 degree angle.
I can tell you from standing at my kitchen counter here for the last 45 minutes that my neck and shoulders are killing me from looking down. I have a MAC laptop, so if I try to elevate it on the counter, my arms would be up by my head trying to type.
I need a standing desk where I can set up my monitor and keyboard properly. I don't advise you to try my countertop method for long unless you can afford a daily massage!
So here's the first desk I looked at that is a bestseller on Amazon and is relatively inexpensive at $40. I like that it's adjustable and lightweight, and that I can move it around easily. It also has a cool, modern look to it.
But even though it's a bestseller, it's gotten mixed reviews, so be sure to read the pros and cons before you buy it.
If you want to easily convert your existing desk into a standing desk, I think this Stand Steady Standing Desk fits the bill.
You can adjust the height of it and move it around from your desk to a table or countertop with no problem. It's a bit more expensive at $150, but as you'll see, the reviews are more consistent. This is one I'm really considering.
If you have enough space in your home or office and want to be able to use your desk for standing or sitting, I really like this 40″ adjustable, rolling standing desk with a monitor mount. It's still under $200 and looks really sturdy, but it does require assembly and some effort to change the adjustments. This isn't a problem if you set it for a standing height and then get a chair that works for that height.
These are just a few of dozens of options for standing desks that stood out to me, but if you want to investigate more, just scroll around on Amazon to find the ones that are highly rated and suit your needs.
If you decide to get a standing desk, be sure you get a pad that takes some of the strain off of your knees and feet like this one: Genuine Joe Anti-Fatigue Mat
They will run you anywhere from $500 to a couple thousand, or you can find an apparatus that fits on your current treadmill. Here are a few treadmill desks to look at with varying price points:
TrekDesk Treadmill Desk
And here's one that works with your existing treadmill:
OK, I finally just sat down again because my neck and back are in knots. It's definitely time for me to make a decision about my standing desk after that little countertop experiment. I think you can see there are lots of options to help you create your own personalized sitting/standing/walking option to improve your health and well-being.
But whether or not you decide to go for a standing or treadmill desk, I hope you'll do something to get out of your chair and regularly move around several times during your work day. Set a timer to remind you to stand up, take a walk, or jump around. You're body and mind will thank you, and you'll add years to your life.