By Kirsty Welsh
We can all learn a thing or two from the Scandinavians, especially when it comes to adopting a healthier workspace.
In Sweden, sit-stand desks - models which allow users to switch between a seated or standing position at the touch of a button - are everyday workplace essentials. Meanwhile, Denmark has made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff the option of a standing desk.
And with many governments urging people to work from home if they can, many are finding the need to assess and adapt their ‘workstation’ (read: desk in the corner of the bedroom or family room) - from investing in the best office chair so as to support their spine, to lighting their workspace with the best desk lamp to avoid eye strain.
These are issues that I’m all too familiar with. When I first started working from home at my makeshift seated desk, I found I just wasn’t productive. I struggled to concentrate, easily got distracted and the dreaded fridge was regularly calling me to raid it.
Two months in and I started suffering from neck and shoulder pain, so - in a mis-guided bid to ease these issues - I moved to slouching on the sofa for a few hours a day and some days even working from my bed. Needless to say they only got worse.
Eventually I realized that things needed to change and that I needed to build a healthier working environment, not only for my spinal health but in order to be more productive mentally.
I started researching how to revamp my home office and ended up reading about the health benefits of a standing desk. Even Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary here in the UK, has praised standing desks in the past – so there must be something about them worth considering, I figured. My achy frame dived in.
I was skeptical at first. Truth be told, I’m a bit lazy - and why stand when there’s a perfectly good chair waiting to be sat on? But I decided to try and remain open-minded.
I would start the day seated and then switch to standing around 10.45am. Post-lunch was when the effects of having a standing desk really paid off - this was when I had typically been the least productive and tired, and would adopt that not-so-attractive slouching pose. After a week I wasn’t slouching, I was more productive and didn’t have those usual aches and pains I was so used to when sitting all day. In short, I was a standing desk convert. Turns out those Scandis are on to something…
If you’re still not convinced that a standing desk is for you, check out the other ways that it could make all the difference to your health below.
Burns more calories
If you’ve been trying to lose weight and are getting nowhere, adding some stand-time to your day could help you to achieve your goals.
A 2014 study that took place in a real-life office found that energy expenditure was 174 calories greater following an afternoon of standing work compared to sitting. Over the course of a five-day week, that equates to more than 800 additional calories burned - just by standing up instead of sitting down for some periods.
Helps lowers blood sugar levels
If you’re trying to lower your blood sugar levels, then standing desks could be beneficial. A small study published in 2016 found that replacing some sitting time with standing reduced average blood sugar levels in obese people who usually spend most of the day sitting.
Promotes good spine health
A standing desk can bring benefits for your poor old spine, too.
Kelly Greacen, a physiotherapist at spine health movement specialists Ten Health & Fitness, explains: ‘When standing, if you have the correct posture and even-weight-bearing on both feet, your spine is going to be in a much more neutral position, as opposed to the slouch position.
‘Even if people have the perfect desk set-up, you will get more and more tired as the day goes on, which will mean you naturally begin to slouch. Standing results in much less pressure on the spinal discs.’
She adds: ‘Not only this, but when standing, you have the ability to tap into your muscles a bit more, such as your legs and arms, and be a bit more active. It gives the spine some stability and support, which it might not otherwise have in the sitting position.’
Of course, posture is just as important during the times that you’re sitting as opposed to standing, so take a look at our guide to correct sitting posture. And if posture is a real concern, you could consider wearing one of the best posture correctors for an hour a day whilst you’re standing.
Standing desk advocates report that switching from sitting and standing throughout the day aids focus. This is backed up by a study published in the British Medical Journal, which found that office workers who were given height-adjustable workstations felt more productive and engaged with their work. They also reported lower levels of anxiety, fatigue and back pain.
Helps you hit your Stand goal
If you’re an Apple Watch user, you’ll be familiar with Stand Goals. The built-in Fitness app monitors three key markers of activity - how any calories you burn through movement, how many minutes of exercise you do, and how often you stand - each represented by a ring. If you hit the daily target for each (the Stand goal requires you to do so for one minute minimum in at least 12 hours during the day), then you officially close your rings.
The activity tracking is one of the things that sets the Apple Watch apart as one the best fitness watches on the market, and any user will know the smug feeling that comes with closing your rings. If that’s you, then a standing desk can definitely help you on your way.
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