Health and Productivity Benefits to Using a Standing Desk
When I was in grad school, I would have to read so many studies and assigned reading material that was next level boring! It didn’t matter that I was drinking about a half gallon, if not more, of coffee as I was studying, I was still falling asleep. Back in Navy boot camp, they would tell you that if you notice yourself falling asleep, stand up against the wall, which really worked wonders.
Using this idea I got from the Navy, I started looking into buying myself a standing desk. After assembling it, I started using it for school and work, and it definitely helped keep me more aware and, more importantly, AWAKE! I have never been more happy and satisfied with a desk, and my clients and former classmates will tell you about how many times I’d be raving about my standing desk.
Working in an office or being a student requires you to spend several hours at your desk, and much of the time, you’re being forced to deal with a lot of mundane stuff. If you start nodding off, it can easily crush your productivity, and might even get you fired. In my opinion, the standing desk is highly underrated and should be the standard for schools and offices across the country.
In fact, some of the benefits behind utilizing a standing desk is backed by research, which indicates possible improvements in cognitive function, increased energy and focus, and potential reductions in back pain!
Improved Cognitive Function
The fatigue that you get while working at a desk is quite different from the kind of fatigue that comes with physical labor. In my time serving in the Navy, I had the unique opportunity of experiencing both mental and physical fatigue at the same time, and it was during our field training exercises that was the most severe for me (I may or may not have found out that I talked in my sleep while out on the field). When you are an office professional, managers and supervisors need to make sure employees are being productive, and if it’s lacking because you’re clearly fatigued, it’s up to you to find a solution— this is where I believe a standing desk might help.
At every level in most offices, professionals have to be quick with their work output, as well as being able to handle unforeseen situations that may pop up. A 2018 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests that standing desks can enhance executive function, such as planning, decision-making, and problem-solving. These cognitive abilities are essential for productivity and enhancing work performance.
As a personal trainer and nutritionist, I’m often getting clients and members at my gym asking me questions about various exercises and changes they can make to adopt healthy eating habits. Granted that I have several years of experience and an advanced degree, I need to be mentally alert and sharp to be able to adequately and correctly answer these questions. While there are times that require a more technical response that needs research, I may have to conduct a quick Pubmed search and sort through a couple studies and meta-analyses, then translate them to be understood by the layperson. If my mind is sluggish, the quality of my response suffers, and the same goes for the work quality from office professionals that are mentally fatigued when sitting at their desk.
Applied Ergonomics published a study in 2013 that said using a standing desk can improve working memory, that’s the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind over short periods. If you can improve your working memory, this can help you as an office professionals to better focus, process information and make decisions.
Managing the work between grad school and as a personal trainer was more mentally draining than I had expected. With my personal training clients, I have to have their workouts ready to go before our training sessions, and before I can do this, I need to analyze their performance in previous training sessions that involved similar exercises to those that I had planned. And with grad school, I would have to analyze, assess, and apply various forms of research to build my arguments to back up my thesis. While coffee is great and I love it, I give a lot of the credit to fighting my mental fatigue to my standing desk, and there’s evidence supporting this opinion.
Is mental fatigue hurting your productivity at work? A 2019 study found that using a standing desk may reduce mental fatigue and improve alertness. If you, as an office professional, are able to reduce mental fatigue, this makes you better equipped to handle challenging tasks and maintain productivity throughout the workday. Should this also improve the quality of your work, your supervisors will take notice and it may be what you need to convince them that you’re worth a promotion or pay raise.
Increased Energy and Focus
How often do you get to the office on Monday morning feeling exhausted? If the weekend is supposed to offer you the reprieve needed to recharge for the next week, then why are you so tired on Monday. If it’s because you went to sleep too late or tried to do too much over the weekend, then you might want to make some adjustments to your next weekend’s activities. Other times, there is no explanation for your fatigue, and you may have gotten the full eight hours of sleep! Regardless, sitting in a desk is not going to be much help when you’re trying to battle fatigue.
It’s simple— if you increased your energy, this is probably going to translate into improved focus and productivity. A 2017 study found that using a standing desk can reduce feelings of fatigue and increase energy levels throughout the workday. This can keep your supervisor off your back because it’s going to increase your productivity.
Things can easily get a little testy when you’re working in an office. Having a bad mood can hurt your relationships with co-workers and if you provide customer service, if you cannot manage a bad mood, it could quickly be reported to your supervisor and lead to a reprimand.
The Journal of Occupational Health published a study in 2016 that said using a standing desk may improve mood, particularly reducing anxiety and depression. A positive mood can increase motivation and engagement, leading to improved work performance.
Were you aware that increases blood flow and oxygenation from using a standing desk can increase productivity? A 2014 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine indicates that using a standing desk may increase blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body, namely in the brain. This can improve mental clarity and focus, and ultimately leading to increased productivity.
Decreasing Back Pain
Most of the time, I usually don’t care about the things that are trending in social media. But the one where a person (usually someone young who has yet to experience a back injury) is doing something, then falls to the ground as though they are writhing in pain, only to start twerking — don’t worry, karma will get you. In reality, when someone actually injures their back, things get instantly serious and you can get a sense of anger because they know what they did wrong, but didn’t make the correction.
A couple years ago, I injured my lower back pretty seriously because I wasn’t observing proper lifting mechanics when helping my clients load the weights to their barbells or machines. The pain got so bad that I had to roll out of bed, putting on my socks and tying my shoes was a massive struggle, and I made a mental note to take everything out of the bottom drawer to move it higher.
The good thing about my back injury is that it made me acutely aware of the struggles one goes through with chronic back pain and smarter about the exercises I would assign for my clients. It also prompted me to invest thousands of hours to find which exercises are best for relieving or reducing back pain, and this explains why you will see so much of my content related to the hip thrust. Something else that I found was a really great help in reducing back pain was none other than the standing desk, and there is some research that backs this up, too.
Oftentimes, when I’m working on the computer, I spot myself slouching and have to remind myself to stop. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study where researchers found that using a standing desk can improve posture: much of this had to do with reducing the amount of time spent in a slouched position. This improved posture can reduce strain on the back and alleviate back pain.
Much of the time, back pain is caused by the amount of compression coming down on the spinal discs. A 2016 study suggests that using a standing desk can reduce spinal compression, namely in the lower back. By reducing spinal compression, standing desks can help alleviate pressure on intervertebral discs, possibly reducing your back pain.
It should be a no-brainer that your muscles are more active when standing versus sitting. In 2018, the Journal of Physical Therapy Science published a study that found that using a standing desk can increase muscle activation in the legs, back, and neck, particularly in the erector spinae muscles that help support the spine. This increased muscle activation may help to alleviate back pain, possibly reducing the risk of future back injuries.
Being highly productive as you’re an office professional trying to combat fatigue can be really challenging, especially when you’re being expected to stay seated for hours until you get a chance to get up for your break. In my opinion, every company needs to take a serious look into investing in standing desks for its employees. Just by being given the option whether to sit or stand while working, an office professional can remain highly productive because she doesn’t have to get up to go to the break room to get more coffee. Not only that, but it can also decrease back pain, as well as optimizing energy and focus.
Coach Julio is an expert in fitness and nutrition, having helped hundreds of busy professionals in their 30s, 40s, and 50s be healthy, as well as offering nutritionist counseling services. He works out of El Paso, Texas, but also offers remote nutritionist counseling and online personal training. Coach Julio’s expertise is backed by over eight years as a personal trainer and a Master’s degree in Nutrition.
For information about working with Coach Julio for online personal training and nutritionist services, visit www.365physique.com/bookonline