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Standing Desks Could Increase Life Expectancy, According To A Study

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We’ve all heard about the nasty and debilitating effects that prolonged sitting can have on people (especially office workers who spend an estimated 9 hours each day seated), but can sit-stand desks provide an effective, cost-effective solution? The answer is a resounding yes if the findings of an Australian study are anything to go by.

The study, which involved 230 desk-based workers, was conducted by Deakin University in Australia. The main focus of the researchers was to get the volunteers to spend less time seated and more time moving or standing.

And the paper has made the suggestion that standing desks could help us live longer. However, any solution involving sit-stand desks would invariably be expensive, since making the recommended changes available to just 20 per cent of office workers in Australia would cost north of $185 million.

On the flip side, the study which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health and funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council alongside VicHealth claims that sit-stand desks could save 7,492 “health adjusted life years” by preventing diseases related to obesity. 

Dr Lan Gao, the study’s lead researcher, warned that spending too much time sitting at a desk was linked to major conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. She continued by warning that it could also contribute to a shorter lifespan.

“Adopting this workplace intervention also has the potential to reduce absenteeism and improve productivity,” Gao is quoted as saying. “The introduction of sit-stand desks, alongside associated supports, is a cost-effective and innovative way to promote the health of Australia’s workforce.”

Sit-stand desks can also be modelled as an effective way of reducing the amount of time an average Australian worker spends seated behind a desk. According to statistics, approximately 5 per cent of Australian workers spend the biggest part of their day behind a desk. 

In the words of Dr Gao, “Ultimately, this intervention has the potential to make a very significant and sustainable positive impact on reducing workplace sitting time, but most importantly, it is also cost-effective, which we know is critical in making the case for a wider rollout of this program.”

Sedentary behaviour is linked to poorer health outcomes, according to official guidance from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

“There is currently not enough evidence to make a recommendation on the specific duration of sitting or lying down that is associated with poorer health outcomes. However, it is recommended to break up time spent sitting or lying down, as often as possible.”

It also warns that new information suggests that exercise alone will not be enough to counteract the negative impacts of sedentary behaviour.

However, the findings of the Deakin University study should not be regarded as gospel as several other studies have challenged the quoted benefits of sit-stand desks to health. Over 16 years, researchers from Exeter University in the United Kingdom and University College London studied over 5,000 people and discovered that sitting was no worse for you than standing as long as you exercised regularly.

Melvyn Hillsdon, a resident at Exeter’s department of sport and health science, opines that “Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing. The results cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand work stations, which employers are increasingly providing to promote healthy working environments.”

The study discovered that sitting at work, during leisure time, or while watching television did not affect participants’ mortality risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does standing increase life expectancy?

According to various studies, physical activity, standing included, may increase life expectancy by up to 40 percent.

How often should you get up from your desk?

It is recommended that you get up from your desk every hour or so. Nevertheless, it depends on your daily schedule. Each individual’s lifestyle, occupation, tasks, and time constraints vary. It is impossible to determine the best schedule for standing up from a desk.

Is standing as effective as exercising?

Absolutely not. Various studies indicate that standing may provide health benefits that are comparable to having a regular exercise schedule. That said, it’s probably best to combine both for the best outcomes. 

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I'm a product researcher at Product Reviewer. I help fellow Aussie consumers make better buying decisions.

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