Standing Desks May Help to Regulate Blood Sugar Levels and Burn Calories

Recent studies have shown that today's workers spend up to 12 hours a day on average sitting down. From workdays spent at the computer and evening relaxation in front of the television, or once again at the computer screen, the modern workforce landscape has cultivated a sedentary approach to life for decades. Researchers now suspect that prolonged sitting can have extreme long-term effects on health, ranging from an increased susceptibility to type II diabetes and the development of cardiovascular conditions to general issues with weight gain and poor spinal health. While the major benefits of standing have been suspected for some time, recent research has shown that adjustable height desks and treadmills promote positive body health across the board. Standing desks can have dramatic effects on the daily regulation of glucose levels in the bloodstream, making it easier for working individuals to realize and maintain weight-loss goals without hitting the gym.

An Old Tradition With Promise for the Present

While vertical desks and treadmill workstations may feel like an utterly modern trend to some, keeping on your feet at work actually has a long history. From Winston Churchill's specially-built writing table to the creative preferences of Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin, and Oscar Hammerstein II, many of history's great thinkers have appreciated the natural stimulation provided by working on the perpendicular. With some studies predicting that all-day sitting can shorten a person's life expectancy by as much as two years, these earlier anecdotes seem to corroborate a modern understanding of healthy work habits.

A 1950s Study on Standing Vs. Sitting at Work

The suspicion that prolonged all-day sitting can have a negative impact on an individual's health goes back at least as far as a 1950s study comparing standing bus conductors and sitting bus drivers. The findings from this study, published in the Lancet, indicated that workers that stood on the job (conductors) had their risk of developing heart disease nearly halved in comparison to the sitting drivers.

Controlling Glucose Levels in the Bloodstream

Modern studies continue to attempt to understand the biomechanics behind the stark differences between sedentary and active workers, and more recently researchers have linked prolonged sitting with issues with blood glucose control and a reduction in the presence of the lipoprotein lipase enzyme. This enzyme is crucial for breaking down fat molecules in the bloodstream in order to provide an immediate energy source for the body's muscles. Inactivity tends to suppress the production of lipase, leading to increased levels of fat and triglycerides that can ultimately result in a greater risk for developing heart disease.

Researchers are now exploring how minor modification to workplace habits can make a major difference in heart health and metabolic functions. One recent informal experiment at the University of Chester in the UK found that blood glucose levels return to normal after meals more quickly on days when subjects stood, and on average heart rates saw a 10-beat-per-minute increase (about 0.7 calories per minute).

Moving Keeps the Body's Metabolic Systems Active

While intense exercise regimens still offer huge health benefits, modern research into sedentary workplace habits suggests that even low-impact, but constant, daily activity can dramatically improve long-term health. For those that cannot quite see themselves working at a standing station, even minor adjustments to daily routines--taking the stairs or standing while on the phone, for instance--can help to achieve similar long-term effects.