Stand while you work to improve your health and productivity

You’ve probably read about the negative impact a sedentary lifestyle can have on your health — sitting for long periods of time can create a multitude of health issues, including lower back pain, poor mobility, and an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. reported:

…the more hours a day you sit, the greater your likelihood of dying an earlier death regardless of how much you exercise or how lean you are. That’s right: Even a sculpted six-pack can’t protect you from your chair. But it’s not just your heart that’s at risk from too much sitting; your hips, spine, and shoulders could also suffer. In fact, it’s not a leap to say that a chair-potato lifestyle can ruin you from head to toe.

This infographic shares more details about how sitting for too long can affect various parts of the body.

Image credit:

Is it any surprise then that it’s often recommended that you get up and take breaks regularly throughout the workday? Not only can getting up often help increase blood flow (to your legs in particular), but this also gives you a chance to hit the “reset” button so that you can return to work more prepared to get stuff done. It seems that standing while you work also can help you to be more productive. A recent study (The Take a Stand Project) conducted by Dr. Nicolaas Pronk found:

Office workers who spent an hour or so a day at stand-up workstations felt more energized, productive and even happier … and if they keep it up, they may help reduce the damage done by sitting at a desk all day.

This doesn’t mean that you should stand for eight hours a day, but you can choose to work while standing for short bursts during the course of the workday. When it’s time to sit back down again, be sure your spine is erect and your shoulders are relaxed. If you slouch or lean forward, you can put stress on your back. Sitting with the proper posture will also allow for better breathing.

What are some work-while-you-stand activities that you can put into practice? There are a couple of things you can begin doing immediately, like standing (or pacing) while you talk on the phone or while you meet with a colleague. You can ramp things up a bit by working at a standing desk. If you choose this option, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and get an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. If you’re interested in making your own standing desk, you can find a number of tutorials at IKEA Hackers, like this one:

Image credits: IKEA Hackers

There are other things you can do to reduce the amount of time you’re sitting down, like holding a walking meeting or if your meeting is on another floor, consider taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You also might want to try working while walking using a treadmill desk or riding a pedal desk.

While sitting for too long does have poor health effects, standing for too long is likely not a good idea either. Consider varying your movement so you’re not in any one position for long periods of time. Test various schedules to see what works best for you (like intervals of 20 minutes sitting and 40 minutes standing) and use an alert to remind you to get up until it becomes a regular part of your routine.

10 Comments for “Stand while you work to improve your health and productivity”

  1. posted by Holly on

    I got a kangaroo desk last year so I can switch between sitting and standing without the need for all new furniture.

  2. posted by Debra on

    I converted my cube to a standing desk and then worked standing up (or sitting on a tall stool) for about 4 months last Summer. I found that it made me very tired. Now I look for opportunities to do some of my work standing up. I have work surfaces at two different heights. My computer is at the sitting surface but I do any writing or reading at the standing surface. I also have a free mediation bell timer on my phone that rings about every 15 minutes reminding me to get up, stretch, take a short walk, etc.

  3. posted by Caro on

    I work retail and I hate standing all day. I’m sure there are nurses, waiters and construction workers who would agree.

  4. posted by pat on

    I love my standing desk at home. We bought a small bar height table and coverted it to use as a computer desk. We also keep a bar stool underneath in case we get tired of standing.

    The biggest bonus is that my teenagers spend less time at the computer with it on this taller desk. They just use the computer for shorter times, and don’t seem to live on it like I see other kids doing.

  5. posted by Vicki on

    Standing up while working at the computer (sometimes) does make sense. However, I put a bit more activity into my work day. I have purposely placed key items that I need within walking distance (not reaching distance) from my computer. So, for example, if I want to get a drink of water or access one of my files, I stand up and go do it.

  6. posted by cathleen on

    I’ve had a standing desk for years now (I work in Silicon Valley) and now all my co-workers are having standing desks installed (paid for by the company). It makes a huge difference for me. I lost 15 lbs when I first did it without changing a thing.

    I tend to stand morning through lunch and then am often in meetings in the afternoon, where I sit. My back feels better and I don’t have “computer hunch”

    The brand is “Workrite” and it’s adjustable with a button.

  7. posted by EngineerMom on

    I wonder how sitting in a chair compares with some of the other postures assumed by people from other cultures besides the West – sitting in seiza, squatting, sitting cross-legged.

  8. posted by Sabrina on

    Great ideas! I am looking for a desk that is adjustable in height so I can have the option to stand or sit. =)

  9. posted by Lynn Miles Peisker on

    Yes! I work at home so my tall kitchen breakfast bar counter works great. I think it helps to take frequent breaks too – hard to remember when you get in the zone! Wrote about it this week!
    What’s your number one way to increase productivity in your work day?

  10. posted by sallee on

    Very happy with my ERGOTRON (love the name!) which, like Holly’s kangaroo desk, allows me to easily switch from standing to sitting. It was affordable for the non-profit I work for but better than that, the health of my back has improved a lot and standing at the computer is energizing. I highly recommend it. I have lost weight since I got it too – but didn’t make that correlation until I read cathleen’s comment. Some days I use a timer to remind me to sit or stand as the day moves along.

Comments are closed.