January 20, 2017

4 Health Benefits of a Stand Up Desk

Take a stand!

The truth is, I take a stand – at my desk. Office workers of the world, arise!

Instead of sitting at a desk day by day where arteries harden and bellies soften (and butts widen!), I go seatless.

Medical research can testify to the ill effects of seating.  Maybe your back can testify, as well, to wasting hours slouching in a chair. Spending hours on end in a chair isn’t just murder on your back—it can literally kill you. People who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day had a 20% higher death rate than those who sat for three hours or less.(1)

benefits of stand up deskAnd if you’re like the average person, you clock almost 55 hours a week on your duff (in a chair at work, in the car as you drive and in front of a T.V.).

The truth is the more you spend your life sitting down, the more likely you are to suffer from chronic back pain, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and possibly even an early death.

Shockingly, working out isn’t an antidote. When I go to the gym I see all these middle-aged folks lying on the floor and contorting their bodies into weird stretches in an attempt to alleviate their chronic back pain. These aren’t blue-collar workers who’ve strained their back from years of heavy labor; no, they are white collar workers whose pain stems from not using their backs enough.

All of the above effects are easily avoidable simply by standing at your desk to work. For one, it engages your back muscles and helps improve your posture. Standing all day and maintaining good posture can really add strength to your core. Many folks who have made the switch to a stand up desk have reported that the change cured their back pain and a lot less soreness in their tailbone compared to sitting for 8-10 hours a day.

There are additional health benefits besides improving your back from the simple act of getting up and standing.

More Energy During the Work Day

While you get less sleepy while working standing up, at the same time you gain satisfying endurance and energy. Standing keeps your blood flowing and your mind more alert. As a result, you can experience less energy dips during the day! It’s a lot harder to get sleepy at your desk if you’re standing! As a result, you are constantly more aware of your body, more mindful of what you say and more healthy!

More Productivity

Years ago I had a boss who didn’t own a desk.  He worked from his laptop computer that was sitting on top of an old pulpit! He would quote the old proverb, “Think on your feet.” Thinking on your feet enables you to think and respond quickly. This is not just about poise and confidence, but about the physical ability to work better and longer in a standing position. The increase in blood flow and oxygen fuels your brain and your muscles so you can stay alert.

Do you “hear” a smile over the phone?  Smiles over the phone might be unseen, but they are most definitely heard.  The same theory applies to standing.  Someone may not see how you are working, but they can tell how productive you are. Standing has incredible power over your attitude and your image and influences everyone around you.

Furthermore, when you feel better, you work better. A standing desk helps you be more productive at work. It also encourages interaction with your coworkers. It gives you easy access to your team members, supply rooms, office equipment and more.

Weight Loss and Better Digestion

Naturally, standing up burns more calories than sitting down, a third more in fact; so after that heavy lunch time snack or the chocolate brownie assisted coffee break, your body will react in a kinder fashion should you chose to gently continue with your duties whilst standing up rather than slouching into your desk. (2)

It has been proven that those who get up from a seated position various times throughout the work day have smaller waistline and better profiles for sugar and fat metabolisms. So, imagine then that you are eventually able to stand all day at your desk! Any previous weight woes would be scuttling meekly off into the sunset. You can lose weight by just standing there!

If you have ever experienced intestinal or digestive issues, then you will also notice this soothing treat. When you stand, you open up your internal organs, which allows everything to move. Sitting cramps your gut and slows things down.

Getting Your Own Stand Up Desk

HCTW own stand up deskA standing workstation doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to work. I have a (sadly discontinued) Ikea Jerker desk, which is designed to let you set the table to any height you want when you assemble it. When I work at home, I just put my laptop on a clean garbage can sitting on the counter. Here are some other stand up desk options:

  • Tall café tables tend to be the perfect height for standing and working.
  • A bunch of books from your bookshelves stacked up could work in a pinch.
  • You can also raise your whole desk by placing it on top of cinder blocks or milk crates.
  • There are also adjustable height desks you can buy to set up a standing.
  • You might consider getting just a podium (or pulpit!) to place next to your regular desk.
  • There are even treadmill arrangements so you can work while walking slowly in place.
  • The Amish make a wide selection of handcrafted stand up desks that can easily be searched for online.

When purchasing or building your stand up desk, just make sure you’re actually comfortable working in the position. You shouldn’t be hunched over, bent at the waist, or straining with your arms to reach the workstation. You shouldn’t be leaning on the desk for support.

Standing up to work is about comfort in addition to health, and you defeat the purpose if you have to strain to make it work.

When standing at a desk where my forearms are at a 90 degree angle on the desk surface, my shoulders go back, which makes my spine concave and opens my chest. Besides the initial foot pain and muscle aches of engaged thighs and calves, it feels great.

Like anything, it takes a while to get used to standing up to do office work. During the first few days I could only get through a couple of hours at a time before taking a sitting break. To start, try typing and talking on the phone while standing. Or, take it fifteen minutes at a time. Now, I can stand most of the day if I decide to, with little breaks to walk around every hour or two. Every now and then I take my meeting sitting down.

You might also consider getting a soft pad to stand on to give your feet some extra cushioning.

Sitting too much at work is now blamed for many current health maladies, including heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Enter the standing desk, which allows you to work on your feet. Standing on the job not only counteracts couch-potato illnesses but also alleviates back pain to boot.

For the quest of better health, it’s time to rise…to your feet…in front of your desk.

Anyone use a standing desk currently? Got any tips for newbies looking to convert? Let everyone know in the comments section!


  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17sitting-t.html?_r=0
  2. http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article folder/NeatLK.html

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