Fast Company Explores New Science about the Benefits of Standing Desks
A recent article by Fast Company highlighted a Canadian study that took an in-depth look into the actual benefits and drawbacks from standing and treadmill desks. Below is a summary of the research findings. You can find the original Fast Company article here.
Are Standing Desks Really Better For You?
There have been numerous reports, research articles, studies, and anecdotal accounts on how sitting all day has a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. Many people have turned to standing desks to combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting. And while there has been plenty of research to support that excessive sedentary time is terrible for your health, there has only been scattered research to support the benefits—or potential drawbacks—of standing desks. A trio of Canadian researchers set out to do just that; analyzing nearly two dozen active desks—both standing and treadmill—to determine the physiological and psychological impacts on health and work performance.
What Are the Real Benefits to Standing Desks?
Their findings were encouraging and generally matched what standing desk proponents have claimed in the past. Active desks had the benefits of both reducing sedentariness and improving mood, without introducing complications in workflow. The findings, published in the journal Preventative Medicine, conclude, “Overall, current evidence suggests that both standing and treadmill desks may be effective in improving overall health considering both physiological and mental health components.”
The physiological and psychological findings were each broken down into three metrics. The physiological measures were baseline measurement, cardiometabolic, and weight loss and body size. For psychological outcomes, researchers measured work performance, mood and cognitive function.
Baseline – Both standing and treadmill desks showed clear benefits over sitting in energy expenditure and average heartrate, with the treadmill desk not surprisingly having a greater impact.
Cardiometabolic – Standing desks were found to increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol and treadmill desks registered significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Weight Loss and Body Size – Participants of varying body types were found to lose weight, but experienced no change in body composition (i.e., BMI), and treadmill desk users experienced even greater weight loss.
Conclusions – Both standing and treadmill desks offered clear physiological health benefits to users, including increased heart rate, glucose reduction, and decreased waist circumference. Treadmill desks, with the added exertion of walking, showed even greater results, but the researchers stated, “Both standing and treadmill desks showed some promise of an ability for improving health outcomes with regular use.”
Work Performance – Standing desks were found to have no significant impact on typical work tasks, namely typing. Users of treadmill desks saw minor decreases in typing and mouse proficiency.
Mood – Clear mood boosts were reported among study participants, with reports of less fatigue, tension, confusion, stress and depression, and increased vigor, energy, focus and happiness.
Cognitive Function – There were no negative impacts to information processing, reading and attention, and one study showed that memory and attention might actually be improved by active desks.
Conclusion – The use of standing desks saw no decrease in worker performance and efficiency and improved overall mood of workers. Treadmill desks saw a small decrease in typing performance, but this effect diminished over time. An adjustable sit and stand workstation is the ideal solution for most workers, as it offers the benefits of standing without some of the muscle aches that can result from all-day standing.
Researchers Prove Standing Desks Benefits Are Real
The research findings showed what a lot of standing desk advocates have already found out for themselves: that using a standing desk can significantly impact both physical and psychological health. The benefits associated with a standing or adjustable-height workstation will hopefully convince more workplaces to offer new solutions for improved employee performance and morale.