“Sitting is the new smoking.” It may sound like hyperbole, but keeping our butts glued to our chairs for extended periods of time is a huge health risk. And that’s no exaggeration.
This shocking (and gruesomely catchy) phrase is credited to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic. According to Dr. Levine, Americans spend more than half their time sitting. And that puts us at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, back pain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer. What?!!
And if you think that regular exercise excludes you from the risk group, do not sit down while we fill you in on the rest of the news.
Why, you ask? It’s pretty simple when you break it down. One hour of exercise simply isn’t enough to counteract 10 hours of sitting. That’s because when we sit for extended periods of time, our metabolism slows, our lower-body muscles are turned off and our good cholesterol starts to drop.
And all of that starts to happen after just 20 minutes of sitting!
Don’t Just Sit There
Many of us who spend what seems like eons chained to our desks and chairs these days, this news is admittedly bleak. The best way to deal with it? Don’t take it sitting down!
Yes, exercise is still a good thing. But the overall solution is sitting less and moving more throughout your ENTIRE day. Which is why so many people are starting to move towards a standing desk, or stated more accurately, a sit-stand desk which can be adjusted throughout the day to vary your position.
Keep in mind, the point is to stand more and transition between sitting and standing throughout the day. Why? Because the very act of standing engages a large group of muscles in your legs and back and positively affects the way you store sugars and fat.
As Dr. Joan Vernikos explains, “Every time you stand up, the body initiates a shift in fluids, volume and hormones, and causes muscles to contract. And almost every nerve in the body is stimulated.”
Transitioning between sitting and standing also burns more calories. How many?
Well, the exact number is determined by your age, sex and weight. Depending on those factors, you can burn anywhere from 120 to 210 calories more when you swap out three hours of sitting for three hours of standing.
And while that may not seem like a lot of extra calories per day, over the course of a year, a conservative estimate puts your extra calories burned at 43,200.
To get a more accurate idea of the calories you could potentially burn, check out this standing vs. sitting calculator. You may be surprised at your number!
Stand Up For Your Health
If you’re feeling anxious to get a move on, we have some great tips for transitioning into a lifestyle where you sit less and stand more. But first, let’s take a look at some of our favorite sit-stand desks to transform your office and potentially your life.
Standing desks come in either electric or non-electric versions. While electric versions use electric power to transition between heights, non-electric versions usually feature a crank or pneumatic pump system.
Non-electric versions are more economical, but they also take a lot of time and effort to change your desk's height. To burn more calories and reduce health risks, it’s best to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day; something that would be a lot harder with a non-electric desk.
With that in mind, we’ve kept our choices to electric standing desks for their ease of use and potentially bigger impact on your health and ease of minimizing those long period sit times.
Here are 7 of our favorites:
This is a premium desk that comes with a premium price tag (prices start at over $1,300), but if you have the budget, there’s a lot to like about the Elegante XT.
In addition to being extremely stable, it also has a wide height adjustment range (24 to 51 inches) and can sustain up to 325 pounds in weight capacity.
The Elegante also boasts a high-quality electronics pack with the longest guarantee in the industry (12-years).
A slight drawback to this high-end desk is that it’s known to be a little loud in motion. However, if quality components and a great guarantee are important to you, it’s definitely a winner.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a much more economical standing desk, you may want to consider the SHW Electric.
Starting at about $300, it has features that are normally reserved for desks at a higher price point: like memory settings and cable management pass-throughs. The height on this tabletop desk can be adjusted between 28 and 45 inches.
The SHW has an average 4.5-star rating on Amazon, and customers seem to think it’s a good value for the money with this budget-friendly option. It also includes free shipping. If you’re on a budget, this could be the one!
Another contender to consider in the mid-range category is the VariDesk. Starting at about $695, it’s liked for its stability and how easy it is to put together. This desk can be adjusted to heights between 25.5 and 50.5 inches.
It also has three memory settings for height, can hold up to 250 pounds and has a quiet motor.
More perks: It ships for free in the continental US, has a 5-year warranty and a 30-day risk-free guarantee.
Varidesk also makes a standing desk converter that is great for anyone in cubicle land or maximizing a small space with an adjustable standing desk.
Starting at $549, the Jarvis has a slightly lower price point than many mid-range desks and gives good value for the money. Offering an impressive height adjustment between 23.25 and 49.25 inches, it can also hold up to 350 pounds.
Other things to like about the Jarvis are its memory for its adjustable height settings and its seven-year warranty on the electronic pack. It’s also been recently improved to be more stable and features a bamboo top from sustainable forests.
For a combination of price and quality, this desk frame is definitely one to consider.
Starting at about $700, this mid-range desk is another one to put on your shortlist. Though its height settings aren’t as variable as the Jarvis Bamboo or VariDesk (29 to 48 inches is the range), it does offer a sturdy frame, a generous 60-inch desktop and memory settings for heights.
Other things to like about this desk are its ergonomic design, its quick and quiet motor and adequate lift capacity of 225 pounds.
The ApexDesk Elite offers tons of desk space and also ships for free!
The Uplift V-2 offers great stability at all heights because of the frame’s crossbar and its thick legs. And while it can accommodate people up to 6-foot-6, you can set this versatile desk about three inches lower than competing desks, making it a good option for people under 5-foot-2 (adjustable between 22.6 and 48.7 inches).
The desktop comes in 5 different sizes (42x30 up to 80x30) and 19 different materials, including various laminates, bamboo and solid wood. While considered a mid-range desk in price, the cost will vary a lot according to which top and extra features you’d like to add.
Custom add-ons include things like monitor arms, keyboard trays and a slew of other features to make this desk a perfect fit for you.
Another plus, it has a 10-year warranty.
At a slightly lower price point, the Uplift V2 is very similar to the Uplift V2 Commercial Standing Desk. However, because it doesn’t come standard with a crossbar on the frame, you do get a bit more wobble on the higher settings.
That being said, for people over 6-foot-6, this adjustable height standing desk could be a great option. The lowest setting is three inches higher than the commercial version (25.3 inches vs. 22.6 inches) and its highest setting is two inches taller (50.9 inches vs. 48.7 inches).
Just like the commercial version, this desk is highly customizable and comes with a 10-year warranty.
How To Stand More And Sit Less
Transitioning to a standing desk isn’t complicated. But there are some points and health benefits to keep in mind as you bring more movement into your workday.
- First of all, don’t try to stand all day long (which may also have a few negative effects). Remember, the point is to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day to engage the large muscle group in your back and legs when you make the transition.
- To begin with, try setting an alert on your phone that reminds you to stand up every 20 minutes. Even if you only manage to stand for a few minutes each time, it will bring a lot more movement into your day.
- As you go along, try to extend the amount of time you spend standing little by little each day.
- If you find that you're fatigued or sore, try a gentle stretch. It also helps to take short walks.
- One of the best times to stand up is when you’re on a phone call.
- So what’s the best ratio of sitting to standing? Well, the sweet spot will vary from person to person. Over time, some people could achieve an 80 to 20 ratio (standing to sitting). Others may top out at 50/50 or less.
- Whatever the ratio, remember that the key is to avoid sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time. In other words, it’s better to switch it up every 20 minutes than to spend an hour sitting and then an hour standing.
- The trick is to mix it up and keep moving!
More Tips For A Healthy Work Day
1. Try using an anti-fatigue mat when standing. It will help reduce pressure on your legs and back.
2. Wear comfortable shoes. That means no high heels, ladies!
3. Whether sitting or standing, watch your posture. That means keeping your chest out and your chin and shoulders back.
4. When you sit or stand, keep your computer at eye level. Looking down at your screen constantly can lead to back and shoulder pain.
5. Have a question for your boss or colleague? Instead of sending an email, walk over to their desk.
6. As mentioned earlier, take your phone calls standing up.
7. Have a meeting? Try catching up with colleagues on a walk instead of sitting at a desk.
8. Take the stairs and skip the elevator.
9. Drink more water. Those trips to the bathroom add up!
A Whole New You
Surprising as it may seem, improving your health may be as simple as standing up. Not only does it reduce your chances for some major health issues, but many converts claim that they’re more productive, have more energy and even find that their mood improves.
We hope our tips on stand up desks and how to transition into using one will inspire you to stand up for your health.
Keep in mind the height range that makes sense, measure the work surface space on your existing desk to get the exact measurements and pick out the right office chair to fully update your home office.
When upgrading to a standing desk, you might consider investing in a good standing desk mat. It will help prevent lower back pain and relieve foot, knee and ankle pain as your body adjusts to the standing lifestyle.
Welcome to the standing desk revolution. And remember to keep moving throughout your workday!
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