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Standing Desks: What Does the Science Say?

Standing desks are nothing new.


In fact, they go back hundreds of years to famous statesmen like Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson. They were also the preferred creativity platform of authors Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens.


Since the 19th century, standing desks have gone through cycles of popularity and obscurity. Why they came onto the scene in the 18th and 19th centuries is hard to say, but we’re certain of this: Today’s return to the standing desk has a lot to do with the science of sitting and new theories of productivity.


As experts in the realm of productivity and office trends, we thought it best to get into the science of standing desks to find out if the trend is a legitimate, healthy option to sitting or if the buzz surrounding them is empty hype.


The Science Says Standing is Better Than Sitting

Over the past few years, several scientists have come out with startling statistics about the correlation between the number of hours you sit per day and your life expectancy.


standing desk coe san diego office furnitureA 2011 article from Art of Manliness referred to a pair of eye-opening studies that indicated the more you sit, the more you cut your life expectancy short.


Sedentary Days Lead to Cardiovascular Disease


We took a look at one of the studies they referred to that was conducted by the University of South Carolina and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (La.).


Researchers analyzed the results of a 1982 study in which 7,744 men between the ages of 20 and 89 without heart disease were monitored until their death.


The teams from South Carolina and Louisiana found that men who spent more than 10 hours a week riding in a car or more than 23 hours a week sitting at a desk were 82% and 64% more likely of dying from cardiovascular disease than men who spent less than four hours a week riding in a car or less than 11 hours a week sitting at a desk.


Sitting for Long Hours Can Aid Weight Gain

A 2016 article from The Huffington Post pointed to another landmark study by Mayo Clinic’s James Levine.


Levine conducted a test in which he took a group of men and added 1,100 calories a day to their diets. The subjects were asked to go through their normal routines and not change anything.


When the study was finished, Levine found that some of the workers in the study gained weight and some did not.


“Curious as to what was making the difference, Levine and this team sewed sensors into the undergarments of the works to track daily movement,” contributor Thomas B. Trafecanty wrote. “What they found was that the group not gaining weight actually sat much less than the other workers.”

A Word to the Wise: Approach These Studies With Skepticism.


Before you run to your office and demand that all your co-workers start standing during the work day, listen to the advice of Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, faculty editor of Harvard Health Publications.


Shmerling warns that more research needs to be done in this area and that scientists have yet to identify exactly which activities lead to the advantages of a non-sedentary lifestyle.


“’Not sitting’ can mean many different things – walking, pacing, or just standing – and … the health effects of these may not be the same,” Shmerling wrote. “For most of these potential benefits, rigorous studies of standing desks have not yet been performed.”


Ready to Stand? We Can Help

If you’ve read through the research and think it’s time to make a change to your office, we can help. Our Safco Sit-Stand workstations give your employees the chance to easily switch between sitting and standing.


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