Written by: Charlotte Pillow (2019), Peer Health Advocate

Have you noticed the recent addition of standing desks in the University of Rochester libraries? You can find this innovative and healthy method of studying for your upcoming exam in Carlson, Gleason, and Rush Rhees Q&I. A standing desk is a raised desk so that it is comfortably accessed while standing- no chairs included. The mindset behind standing desks is that standing, as opposed to sitting, requires more effort and burns more calories. Yet a 2016 study published by The Journal of Physical Activity and Health compared energy expenditure between standing study participants and sitting study participants, and found that the difference in calories burned per hour was minimal: only a difference of eight calories (Creasy et al.). If standing desks are not helping us burn more calories, what is the point of this new alternative to conventional desks? Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of standing desks.

Benefit #1: Combat Sedentary Behavior

When you’re working at a standing desk, you are breaking a pattern of sedentary behavior. As students, we sit in class, sit to quickly inhale our meals, sit to study, then sit to finally relax at the end of the night. We are sitting all day! Using a standing desk can help us combat that pattern. Again, standing up does not significantly burn more calories than sitting down (Creasy et al., 2016). However, prolonged periods of sedentary behavior have a negative impact on our health. Take this study from 1953 on the health of London Transport workers. The study compared long-term health outcomes of men in physically active jobs, like conductors, versus men in physically inactive jobs, like drivers. The study found that men in more active positions had lower incidence of health problems related to cardiovascular disease (Morris et al., 1953). Similar conclusions can be drawn for our study habits- standing up to study as opposed to sitting down can prevent us from prolonged periods of sedentary behavior that may have negative effects on our health. Plus, once we are standing up, we are more likely to keep moving throughout the day.

Benefit #2: Improve Your Posture

Standing up at a desk forces you to keep your back upright instead of hunched over. Standing desks are often adjustable so that you can set the desk height to a level that works best for you. The Take-A-Stand project in Minnesota provides evidence that switching to a standing desk may even reduce back pain; Among study participants who used sit-stand desks at work for seven weeks, upper back and neck pain was reduced by 54% (Pronk, Katz, Lowry, & Payfer, 2012).

Benefit #3: Brighten Your Day

The Take-A-Stand study participants using standing desks also reported lower levels of stress and fatigue than their counterparts who used conventional desks (Pronk, Katz, Lowry, & Payfer, 2012). Interestingly enough, once the participants returned to conventional desks, their moods also returned to their previous states (Pronk, Katz, Lowry, & Payfer, 2012). Choosing a standing desk could help improve your mood and keep your energy up for studying.

(Image credit: University of Rochester)