Last updated by Dr Sarah Brewer on
Standing desks and under desk trainers can transform your health as well as your productivity at work by reducing discomfort and pain associated with sitting down for much of the day. If you are stuck indoors working at a desk and find it difficult to fit exercise into your day, a standing desk and leaning chair could make the difference between maintaining or improving your fitness level, and becoming increasingly unfit and overweight.
Standing desks health benefits
Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular as when you are standing you are exercising, even if only gently. Your muscles constantly have to work and make tiny readjustments to maintain your posture and support your weight against gravity. This increases the number of calories you burn, helps to maintain fitness, and can improve your long-term health.
Sitting down for long periods is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, some cancers and even premature death. Standing rather than sitting is therefore preferable for as long as is comfortable, and can lower your blood pressure, improve your concentration and productivity as well as reducing your long-term risk of heart disease.
Usual advice is to break up your sitting time throughout the day. That isn’t always possible when you work on a computer which is why, in some countries such as Denmark, employers are even obliged by law to provide employees with adjustable desks so they can stand and work when they wish.
Switching full-time to a standing desk can be tiring initially, so start by standing a bit then sitting and slowly increase the length of time you spend on your feet.
A sit-stand desk and a leaning chair offers the flexibility to choose how long you stand and how long you sit.
Standing desks for weight control
Researchers from the University of Iowa found that people who were given the option to use sit-stand desks ended up standing for at least 60 minutes a day longer, on average, than their sitting counterparts. They also walked significantly more steps per day while at work. If you’re using a fitness tracker or pedometer, this is a great way to reach your daily activity goals.
Working at a standing desk can mean you burn between 20 and 50 more calories per hour than if you were sitting on an office chair. This could help you burn an additional 1,000 calories a week or more, adding up to at least 52,000 calories per year – the equivalent of running 20 marathons!
A standing desk is also great for children and teens to use when preparing homework, after sitting in lessons at school or college all day. UK researchers have even found benefits for primary school children – when some lessons were held standing up, teachers noticed that children concentrated better and became fitter as they burned more calories.
If you still only have a sitting desk, stand every 20 minutes to move around – walk to the printer, go for a glass of water, stand for a meeting, and take the stairs when visiting other floors in your office building, rather than using the elevator. You can also reduce your sitting time by breaking up long periods at a desk computer by placing our laptop on a filing cabinet to use while standing, instead.
VARIdesk are a leading provider of standing and sit-stand desks, some of which sit on top of your existing furniture.
The VARIDesk Pro Series has a single tier so your display monitors, documents and laptop are all on the same level while you are standing. When you chose to sit instead, a slid-out tray holds your keyboard and mouse to keep your workspace clutter-free. The Pro VARIDesk is available in two widths: 30 inches and 36 inches in a black finish.
The VARIDesk Pro Plus series has a two-tier design with an upper level to hold your monitor and a lower tier to hold your keyboard or laptop. It is available in three widths: 30 inches, 36 inches or 48 inches, and in black, white or wood finishes (depending on the size).
The Cube Corner series is a two-tiered corner desk designed for cubicles so you can work sitting or standing despite limited space.
Each VARIDesk arrives fully assembled. You simply squeeze the side handles and the spring-loaded mechanism raises or lowers the desk to one of 11 height settings to convert any desk into a standing desk of your preferred height. The weighted base keeps the desk steady and stable without the need for bolts or clamps.
I’ve found that using a VARIDesk helps to overcome tiredness and lack of energy by boosting my fitness level. If sitting causes back pain, this also allows you to readjust your posture and stand or sit to reduce back discomfort.
The VARIChair also comes fully assembled and is designed to engage your leg, back and core muscles to keep you active when not standing.
It is adjustable up to a height of 32.75 inches (83 cm) thanks to its air-lift piston, and has a cushioned seat and articulating pedestal so you can rock or stretch while sitting or lean comfortably when sem-standing. The weighted base means you will stay while leaning, too. The low back also promotes good posture.
The VARIChair is heavy enough to remain stable when leaning against it and won’t go slipping across your floor. We’ve found it useful in the kitchen too, for leaning against when prepping meals.
The Standing Desk Anti-fatigue mat has a non-slip bottom, beveled edges that won’t curl, and is cushioned to support your weight and maintain comfortable feet, ankles, knees, hips and back as you stand for increasing periods of time.
The Standing Desk Active Mat has an angled edge on which you can stretch, shift and stand in a range of positions to engage different muscles while standing.
It’s now also possible to exercise at your desk with an elliptical stepper that fits underneath. The Skandika under-desk trainer is a mini elliptical cross trainer without arm extensions. It fits under any desk and is easy to use while you work.
Step movements strengthen your foot and leg muscles and encourage you to adopt an active sitting position at your desk, helping to counteract lack of movement from sitting for long periods.
There are eight resistance levels to take you from couch potato to peak athlete. It also monitors how much time you spend exercising, how many repetitions you do and how many calories you burn. These details are clearly displayed to help you get the most from your desk exercise routine and set effective goals.
The Skandika Sit-Fit mini elliptical trainer weighs 14 kg, has dimensions of 60 cm x 51 cm x 31 cm, and easily fits below any desk or living room table. It’s also quiet to use so you won’t disturb your workplace colleagues.
I also have a FitDesk at home, imported from the United States, which is like an exercise bike fitted with a desk. This means I can cycle while working on my laptop to write my blog posts. No more excuses about being too busy to exercise.
There are plenty of options available for those of us who are stuck in an office for most of the day.
Image credit: StrongProject/vimeo