With computers and desks now centerpieces of the modern workplace, it’s easy to spend most of the day parked in a chair. To combat a sedentary lifestyle, standing desks — one of the newest professional trends — are offering employees a reason to get up. Studies suggest sitting too long can increase one’s risk of heart disease and diabetes, which means getting up out of a chair can keep illness at bay. But the standing desk benefits don’t stop there. A study in BMC Public Health showed that standing 10 hours during the work week ultimately increased physical activity.
There are just as many challenges to this work style, though. Thinking about implementing a standing desk option for your office? Here are some things to consider.
Sitting vs. Standing
There is a slightly higher calorie burn when standing up. According to the British Medical Journal, standing burns .83 more calories per minute than sitting, and increases the heart rate by 10 beats per minute as well. Ultimately, the change from sitting to standing is good for heart health. Standing at work also makes it easier for you to move around, both by shifting your weight at your desk and by walking more readily to other areas of the office. Even just moving between standing and sitting positions is helpful.
Mentally, standing keeps workers more alert than when they’re sitting down because it requires them to constantly rebalance themselves without even realizing it. By moving their feet and shoulders in this way, their focus slightly sharpens in the process. A study in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that elementary school children also had better focus when using standing desks in their classroom. Their energy increased along with it, which is crucial considering how long students are inside during the day.
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Can’t Stand It?
Standing too long, however, can increase leg and feet soreness. It can also cause varicose veins, which are enlarged vessels that have lost some of their natural elasticity. Veins in your legs are most prone to becoming varicose because of the gravity needed to pump blood from the legs into the middle and upper parts of your body.
Some employees simply aren’t comfortable or physically able to stand for long periods of time. And no one should be forced to use a standing desk if they’d rather not. Given certain dress codes, those wearing high heels may want to bring another pair of shoes to change into. Some prefer to wear sneakers that are good for walking, as they provide cushioning and comfort when they’re on their feet all day.
Bridging the Gap
The saying, “everything in moderation” applies to standing desks as much as anything else. Standing desks come in a variety of types, and there should be options to change between standing and sitting positions quickly. It’s harder to do that with stationary standing desks, because they often involve moving the computer and other work items to another surface each time. Adjustable work stations get around this by allowing a person to move his or her work surface by lifting the computer upward and downward, switching easily between standing and sitting positions.
A standing desk benefits employees who are looking to be more active, but there are several ways for workers to get moving. Conduct small group meetings while walking instead of in conference rooms, reposition printers so they’re further away from their desks and propose that colleagues deliver certain messages in person instead of email.
Advice or recommendations are for informational or educational purposes only, not a substitute for a visit or consultation with your doctor.
For employers: Wellness programs are regulated by federal and state law. Consult your legal counsel before implementing any program component.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also use tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the in the Member Wellness Center under the Managing Your Health tab.