Science Just Declared a Verdict on Standing Desks, But You’ll Want to Know the Details, Too
Good news for people who like to be on their feet all day, and for those who think those other people are crazy.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
By this point you've certainly heard the news that sitting all day - as our information-based economy tends to demand from us, at least until we can beam the office direct into our retinas - is not good for your health.
All those seated hours have been connected to an epidemic of obesity as well as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Clearly the solution here should be simple: just stand up!
Sensing a burgeoning market, countless purveyors of standing desks and standing desk conversions have rushed into the fold to fill the demand in recent years.
I'm among the aspirational hordes who have hauled an overly complicated adjustable desk into the office in the hopes it will add a few years to my life... for me to no doubt spend standing at a desk (real writers never retire).
While I may never quit writing, I gave up on the stand-up desk rather quickly for reasons primarily involving old dogs and new tricks.
Now, new research has provided me with a number to attach to my failure of will and conviction: 5.5.
The study looked at whether standing burns more calories than sitting and found that, indeed, standing instead of sitting for six hours a day would burn an extra 54 calories a day.
Stretch that out over a year and you could lose that five-and-a-half pounds, or over 20 pounds if you keep it up for four years.
"Our results might be an underestimate because when people stand they tend to make spontaneous movements like shifting weight or swaying from one foot to another, taking small steps forward and back. People may even be more likely to walk to the filing cabinet or trash bin," said Professor Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, senior author and Chief of Preventive Cardiology at the Mayo Clinic.
So there you have it, the science is in, and that standing desk is your ticket to becoming 20 pounds lighter and perhaps living longer.
The problem for me is that standing while typing after a lifetime of writing while seated disrupted my productivity quite a bit.
So now I need to dig a little deeper into the research so that I can justify staying seated without the guilt of feeling I'm basically hooking myself up to an IV drip of fat and death each time I sit down.
Seriously, let's look again at the calories burned from standing for six hours. And by the way, can we all agree that six hours is a long time to stand?
So six hours on your feet rather than sitting burns 54 calories. That's about half the amount of calories you get from eating a piece of buttered toast in the morning. You can also easily burn that amount of calories by walking for around ten minutes at a moderate pace.
In other words, you could lose 5.5 pounds in a year by standing all day, every day, or by sharing your morning toast with the dog or by walking to the coffee shop during your break instead of having someone fetch your caffeine for you.
Of these three options, the six hours of standing ranks far behind the other two in my book.
I guess standing all day is great for burning some extra calories if you really can't get away from your desk. And there are other benefits.
"Standing not only burns more calories, the additional muscle activity is linked to lower rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes, so the benefits of standing could go beyond weight control," adds Lopez-Jimenez.
That may be, but for me sitting just works better for work.
But to feel like less of a slug, I make sure not to sit for long spells by breaking up my day not only with some standing and walking, but also making some time for serious calorie-burning exercise that I truly enjoy like biking, trail running, racquetball... or hauling my old standing desk to the landfill.