Adjustable Height Desk

Increase Your Productivity By Using an Adjustable Height Desk

Da vinci used a standing desk

Da vinci used a standing desk

Leonardo da Vinci, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill- they all knew it. Every trendy modern office from Scandinavia to the Silicon Valley knows it too now: working standing up has its benefits. And not just standing up. All of the trendy offices these days have treadmill desks to encourage workers to walk as they are working. This may sound like just a fad. However, there is a scientific basis to it.

In today’s high tech modern world, laziness runs rampart. A typical television-watching, car-driving worker in a cubicle would need to walk an additional 19 km per day in order to match the few remaining hunter-gather’s activity levels. Although all living organisms have a tendency to conserve energy whenever they can, there is mounting evidence that saving it to the extent that a majority of Westerners do isn’t good for you. In fact it’s so bad it may kill you.

That alone might not be that surprising. For decades now, health ministries have nagged us to exercise more. Something that is surprising to know is being inactive for prolonged period of time are bad for you health no matter how much time is also spent on official approved forms of physical activity such as hitting the treadmill at the gym or jogging outdoors. According to the most recent research, you also need to have low-level activity on a constant basis. The level may be so low that you don’t even think it’s an activity. Even just standing counts since it uses muscles that you don’t use while sitting.

Researchers who study this particular field can trace the origins of the concept that standing up is healthy to 1953. In the Lancet a study was published that discovered that bus conductors who stood all day had half the risk of getting a heart attack compared to bus drivers who sat all day. However, during the 1970s, as it became clear that vigorous physical activity and exercise offered substantial health benefits, interest in the effects that low intensity activities such as standing and walking have started to decline.

Standing desk meeting

Standing Meeting – image

However, over the last couple of years, interest has increased once again. Several epidemiological studies have been conducted. They all point in the same direction. The findings have persuaded University of Leicester’s Emma Wilmot to conduct a meta-analysis. The technique combines various studies in a way that is statistically meaningful. In 2012 Dr. Wilmot combined 18 studies that covered nearly 800,000 individuals. She concluded that the subjects who in their regular daily lives were least active were twice as likely to become diabetic as the most active subjects were. Another finding of hers was that the immobile are two times as likely to suffer a fatal heart attack. They are also two and a half times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to the most active. Critically, this all appeared to be independent of how much vigorous exercise in the gym that was performed by the study participants.

Of course, correlation does not equal causation. However, other evidence suggests that inactivity is what causes the problems. There is the finding that doing a task while sitting down- anything from reading to playing a video game to watching television- increases how many calories individuals consume without increasing how many they burn. It isn’t clear how a low level form of exercise such as standing up would cope with snacking.

There is a different series of studies that suggest inactivity in and of itself- without having distractions such as reading or TV- can be harmful by altering one’s metabolism. In one experiment, rats were immobilised for an entire day. Their hind legs had to be suspended in order to keep them still. Large amounts of triglycerides were found in their skeletal muscles, meaning they were causing trouble elsewhere. The animals level of high density lipoprotein (HDL) dropped dramatically also. HDL is a form of packaging cholesterol. Even low levels can promote heart disease. There have been other studies that showed the lipoprotein lipase (enzyme regulating levels of HDL and triglycerides) activity dropped sharply after only being inactive for a few hours and also changes the activity levels in more than 100 genes.

Similar effects have been found in studies focusing on humans instead of laboratory animals. This research does fortunately suggest that it is possible to reserve the changes through small amounts of low key activity. Last year a study was published by Dr. Dunstan. His findings were that breaking up long periods of sitting with just a couple of minutes of walking each 20 minutes or so made a huge difference. He discovered that after he fed his study participants a sugary meals that individuals who had been doing their short amounts of walking had blood glucose levels that were nearly 30% lower than individuals who didn’t walk and remained in their seats instead.

This combination of human trials, animal experiments and epidemiology for some scientists suggests that moderate or light exercise- such as walking around or standing up- is qualitatively different than high intensity, energetic workouts. However, not everybody is convinced. A lot of the human studies have been small in scale (For example, there were only 19 participants in Dr. Dunstan’s study). Also, not all studies searching for harmful effects from inactivity have found them.

However, given how widespread the problem of inactivity is also means not everybody is willing to just wait around to get definitive proof.

Adjustable height desk

NZ standing desk

Adjustable height desk – image Varidesk

Research is showing that using standing desks can help to reduce the health issues mentioned above. At the same time people’s productivity has been see to increase. People are more creative, their juices flow and their output is greater when they stand.

When you are standing you are more mentally alert and so your output increases. If you think about watching TV at night. You start to feel drowsy so you get ready to go to bed. But as soon as you stand up you feel more energised. And so it is with working while standing after you have been sitting for any period of time. Quite simply, people are more productive if they regularly use a standing desk.

Here are some details about NZ adjustable height desks.

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