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Rise Up: 10 Data-Backed Reasons to Switch to a Standing Desk Today

As a digital technology expert, I‘ve seen countless innovations aimed at optimizing our productivity and performance in the modern workplace. But one of the simplest and most profound is also one of the most overlooked: the humble standing desk.

Far from a passing fad, standing desks are backed by a growing body of scientific research showing their potential to transform our health and workday wellbeing. As more and more tech companies embrace the "stand up" movement, it‘s time to take a closer look at the evidence behind the hype.

In this data-driven guide, we‘ll explore 10 compelling reasons why you should make the switch to a standing desk, based on the latest peer-reviewed studies. Plus, I‘ll break down how to choose the right model for your needs and share my top picks for every budget.

Whether you‘re a software engineer, graphic designer, or entrepreneur, investing in a standing desk could be the smartest move you make for your mind and body this year. Let‘s dive in!

The Scary Science of Sitting

Before we get into the benefits of standing desks, we need to address the elephant in the room (or rather, the elephant in the office chair): the dangers of prolonged sitting. In recent years, a sedentary lifestyle has become a full-blown epidemic – and the effects are sobering.

Consider these statistics:

  • People who sit for 8+ hours per day with no physical activity have a similar risk of dying as smokers or the obese. (Source: Annals of Internal Medicine)
  • Prolonged sitting is linked to a 147% increase in cardiovascular events and 90% increase in death from these events. (Source: Mayo Clinic Proceedings)
  • Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3 hours per day. (Source: American Cancer Society)

Even for those who exercise regularly, extended sitting seems to offset many of the health benefits of working out. As Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic puts it bluntly: "Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death."

Sitting health risks infographic
Image Credit: JustStand.org

But here‘s the good news: we don‘t have to take this sitting down. By simply incorporating more standing and movement into our daily routine, we can counteract the damage and reap a host of physical and mental benefits. That‘s where standing desks come in.

10 Science-Backed Benefits of Standing Desks

1. Lower Risk of Heart Disease

One of the most well-established benefits of using a standing desk is a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death worldwide. A 2015 study found that bus conductors who stood all day had half the risk of heart disease-related deaths as their colleagues in the driver‘s seats.

Another study from the American Journal of Epidemiology found that sitting more than 6 hours per day increased risk of dying from heart disease by 64% compared to sitting less than 3 hours per day. In contrast, standing or walking for an extra 2 hours per day was linked to a 10% decrease in risk.

2. Reduced Risk of Obesity and Weight Gain

Prolonged sitting not only slows your metabolism, it actually turns off the circulation of a fat-absorbing enzyme called lipase. A 2018 study found that standing more can significantly lower your risk of weight gain and obesity – with those who stood up more were 33% less likely to be obese than those who sat more.

But how many extra calories does standing actually burn? According to a 2013 BBC study, standing at your desk for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, would burn an extra 30,000 calories over the course of a year – equivalent to running about 10 marathons! Even at a more modest pace, researchers found that standing burned an extra 0.7 calories per minute compared to sitting. Over the course of a 5 day work week, that adds up to 750 extra calories burned.

Calorie burn sitting vs standing
Image Credit: JustStand.org

3. Decreased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Sitting for extended periods is linked to decreased effectiveness of insulin, the hormone that helps carry glucose from the bloodstream into cells for energy. Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance and skyrocketing blood sugar levels – a recipe for type 2 diabetes.

But a 2013 study found that alternating bouts of sitting and standing every 30 minutes throughout the workday reduced blood sugar spikes by an average of 11.1% compared to sitting all day. Significant benefits were experienced after just one day. Another study found that using a standing desk for 3 months reduced post-meal blood sugar levels by 43% compared to a traditional seated desk.

4. Improved Posture and Core Strength

Poor posture from hunching over a keyboard all day doesn‘t just cause nagging neck and back pain – over time it can actually alter the alignment of your spine and increase risk of musculoskeletal disorders. A standing desk encourages you to engage your core, align your spine, and balance your body weight more evenly.

According to a 2018 report by the Workplace Health Research Network, 54% of standing desk users reported a significant reduction in upper back, shoulder and neck discomfort after 4 weeks. Core strength improved for 83% of participants and posture for 75%. When your body is properly aligned and supported, focusing on work becomes a lot easier.

5. Boosted Productivity and Focus

It‘s not just your physical health that stands to benefit from a standing desk – your cognitive performance may improve as well. The simple act of standing increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, leading to better mental clarity and concentration.

A 2018 study by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health found that call center employees using standing desks were 46% more productive than traditional seated employees. Over a 6 month period, productivity rose even further to 53%. In another famous study of standing meetings, participants took 34% less time to make decisions than sitting groups, with no loss in quality.

Productivity increase chart
Image Credit: Texas A&M University

6. Enhanced Energy and Mood

Ever have those afternoon slumps where you feel tired, irritable, and unable to focus? Sitting may be partially to blame. Sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Conversely, low-level activity like standing releases endorphins and serotonin, making you feel happier and more energized.

In a 7-week study of standing desk users, 87% reported feeling more energetic overall and 65% felt happier at work. Users also reported less stress and fatigue than when using a traditional seated desk. Who couldn‘t use a natural boost in mood and motivation during the workday?

7. Increased Calorie Burn and Fitness

We already covered how standing burns significantly more calories than sitting, but did you know even small movements like shifting weight or fidgeting can add up over time? A study from the University of Iowa found that if the average office worker added just 2 minutes per hour of walking to their routine, they would burn an extra 59 calories per day. Over the course of a year, this could result in a loss of more than 6 pounds!

Many standing desk users also like to incorporate other simple exercises like calf raises, glute squeezes, or leg swings to increase strength and calorie burn. Some even opt for an under-the-desk treadmill or bike to keep moving while working. The beauty is that you can customize your setup to your own fitness goals.

8. Reduced Cancer Risk

While more studies are needed, preliminary research suggests that prolonged sitting could increase your risk of certain cancers. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, every 2 hour increase in sitting time is associated with an:

  • 8% increased risk of colon cancer
  • 10% increased risk of endometrial cancer
  • 6% increased risk of lung cancer

In contrast, alternating sitting and standing every 30 minutes was shown to significantly curb cancer-promoting growth factors. Of course, it would be a stretch to say standing desks alone prevent cancer – but they can be an important part of an overall healthy, active lifestyle.

9. Better Circulation and Vascular Health

When you sit for long periods, blood tends to pool in your legs, ankles and feet, causing everything from swelling and varicose veins to potentially deadly blood clots. The impact on circulation is severe enough that it‘s earned the nickname "Economy Class Syndrome."

Researchers from the University of Missouri found that standing produces beneficial cardiovascular changes like increased venous blood flow, whereas sitting causes the blood vessels to constrict and blood pressure to rise. Over time, the vasculature actually adapts to become more flexible and responsive when you spend more time on your feet. A 2015 study even found that sitting less than 3 hours per day could boost life expectancy by 2 years!

10. Tech Companies are Leading the Way

If anyone understands the risks of increasingly sedentary modern life, it‘s the titans of Silicon Valley. That‘s why more and more tech companies are embracing standing desks to boost employee health and performance. Google offers standing desks as part of their employee wellness program, while Facebook encourages walking meetings on their Menlo Park campus.

Many startups have gone entirely chair-free, like San Francisco-based Gusto. CEO Josh Reeves replaced all the traditional desks with standing models when they moved to a new office. "We made the entire office standing. It became this huge cultural shift . . . the experience of collaborating with one another is so much richer."

Even digital nomads and remote workers are jumping on the standing desk bandwagon by creating DIY setups in coworking spaces and home offices around the globe. Clearly, the movement has legs.

Choosing the Right Standing Desk

Sold on the benefits but not sure where to start? With dozens of models on the market, choosing a standing desk can feel overwhelming. Here are the key factors I recommend looking for, based on my experience testing and reviewing top models:

Adjustability Range:
Everyone has different height needs, so make sure the desk can accommodate you. I prefer electric models with programmable height presets for easy adjustments.

Desktop Size:
Consider how much equipment you need to fit and opt for a spacious work surface, especially if using a dual monitor setup. Popular sizes range from 48" to 72" wide.

Lift Capacity:
A high quality desk should be able to lift at least 200 pounds of gear smoothly and quietly. Opt for a durable steel frame and check the maximum weight capacity.

Stability:
Wobbling is a common complaint with cheaply made standing desks. To minimize shake, look for a solid, heavy base and a warranty of at least 5 years.

Ease of Use:
Most users raise and lower their desks multiple times per day, so make sure the lift mechanism is simple and user-friendly. Electric is ideal for frequent adjustments.

Noise Level:
If you work in a shared office space, a whisper-quiet motor is a must to avoid disturbing colleagues. Under 50 decibels is the gold standard.

Extra Features:
Value-added accessories like wire management kits, keyboard trays, and built-in power outlets can make your desk more functional and clutter-free.

To help narrow down the options, here‘s a quick comparison of my top standing desk picks at different price points:

Model Type Height Range Lift Capacity Price
UPLIFT V2 Electric 25.5" – 51.1" 355 lbs $739
Jarvis Bamboo Electric 23.75" – 49.25" 350 lbs $569
VIVO Manual Manual 4.5" – 19.7" 88 lbs $120
FlexiSpot M2 35" Manual 5.5" -16.5" 35 lbs $99

Prices accurate as of April 2021

For most users, I recommend going with a mid-range electric model like the UPLIFT V2 or Jarvis Bamboo. The price jump from manual standing desk converters is justified by the vastly improved stability, ease of use, and long term durability. Buy a quality desk from a reputable manufacturer and it should last you a decade or more.

Final Thoughts

I hope this deep dive into the research and benefits behind standing desks has convinced you to stand up for your health – literally! By now it should be clear that not all desk jobs have to be a pain in the neck (and back, and hips, and so on).

Of course, simply buying a standing desk is no magic bullet. The goal is to build more low-level activity and movement into your daily routine, whether that‘s by standing during conference calls, walking while brainstorming, or doing simple stretches in between tasks.

As sedentary behavior researcher Dr. Alan Hedge sums it up: "The key is breaking up your activity throughout the day. Sitting all day and standing all day are both bad for you." By alternating between sitting and standing at regular intervals, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

So if you‘re ready to boost your physical and mental performance at work, I highly recommend investing in a standing desk setup. Trust me, your body will thank you! The only question is, which model will you choose first?