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by Geoff Rand

What would you say if I told you that standing for just three hours each day could increase your overall health?  I’m sure some would expect sore feet or backs from such a change, and you might even think there’s no way you’d have time for that.

You may wonder what the harm is in sitting down so much.  Studies have shown that people who sit the majority of their day live on average two years less than someone who is on their feet most of the day.  Other studies have shown that exercise can’t undo the effects of sitting down the entire day.  And, there are the obvious detriments of increased weight gain and obesity for workers in sedentary jobs.

I’ve talked about how sitting can throw off your posture in a previous blog.  Being sedentary also negatively affects how the body converts food into glucose, which, when out of whack, can contribute to the development of diabetes and heart disease.

A British study looked at the sedentary habits of the average office worker.  With workdays ranging from 8-12 hours, mostly seated at a desk, and adding in commute, TV, and sleeping time, it is completely possible to spend up to 19 hours a day being inactive.  The study took a group of office dwellers and asked them to add 3 hours of standing during their day.  The participants wore accelerometers, heart rate monitors, and measured their blood sugar throughout the day.

The results were quite impressive for such a small change in their daily routine.  The study volunteers saw their blood glucose levels return to normal after a meal much more quickly during times where they were standing versus sitting.  One woman in the study saw an improvement in her arthritis symptoms due to the increase in standing.

They also showed an increased heart rate while standing, which translates to more calories burned.  On average, they burned about 50 calories an hour while standing.  So, for three hours a day standing over a five-day workweek, that translates to 750 calories burned.  Over a year, it’s 30,000 extra calories, or the equivalent of 8 lbs. of fat burned, all for just standing up for a short time during the day instead of sitting.

It turns out the study wasn’t the first of its kind.  A similar study in the 1950s on bus conductors (who stood), compared to bus drivers (who sat), showed the bus conductors had around half the risk of developing heart disease as the sedentary bus drivers.  Standing isn’t a new concept, either.  Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemmingway, and Ben Franklin all worked at standing desks.

Other studies in workplace standing have seen participants who experienced reduced back and neck pain when standing, and increased productivity, decreased stress and better moods from standing.

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You might find that standing while working makes you more likely to walk over to a colleague’s desk rather than sending an email, which helps burn even more calories.  It might even translate to better office operations, as a face-to-face conversation is hard to beat in terms of quality of communication when compared to an email.

If your boss won’t spring for the larger full standing desks, smaller desktop versions exist that convert your standard desk into a standing workspace.

So try it out.  See how standing at work just a few hours over the course of your day can improve your health.