Do standing desks actually make us healthier? Abraham the Pharmacist tested out the Eiger Pro and brought some science to the table to try and answer the question.
Watch the video within and see Abraham shed some light on an 800,000 participant study by the NHS which found that increased sitting time equated to some startling stats including;
- 112% increase in risk of type 2 diabetes.
- 147% increase in cardiovascular events.
- 90% increase in death due to cardiovascular events.
- 49% increase in death due to any cause.
Abraham covers a number of studies regarding sitting and standing and explains that standing as a solution isn’t meant to be for long drawn out periods but instead is designed to be broken up with rest breaks and walking breaks. He reflects on the benefits of standing desks, calls for more studies and seems to have found his time with the Eiger agreeable.
Click the video to get his take.
Abraham describes himself as a “media pharmacist” He is a presenter, videographer + prescribing pharmacist and is contactable on twitter @abrahamthepharm or via his website www.abrahamthepharmacist.com
Sport England has called for a focus on children’s health after they conducted a world leading 130,000 participant survey into the activity levels of children and young people. The survey is the largest ever of its kind and contains results that detail how 2.3 million children do less than 30 minutes of activity each day.
The chief medical officer recommends at least 60 minutes of exercise a day for young people, the World Health Organisations recommends that at least 3 days a week that activity should be aerobic.
Chief Executive of Sport England Tim Hollingsworth said
“I am calling for a national focus on the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children and for the whole system to be united in delivering change. Our children deserve better and Sport England is determined to play its part,”
“Parents, schools, the sport and leisure industry and government all have a role to play in addressing and increasing childhood activity. This research is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and is a big wake-up call for all of us."
Meanwhile another survey of 2000 parents has demonstrated that mobile phones are edging out bikes, skateboards and roller-blades on children’s Christmas lists. Staggeringly 1 in 10 of the parents admit their children don’t even leave the house for a week at Christmas.
Whilse 3 in 10 youngsters get less than 30 minutes or less of fresh air daily, they get 3 hours of television and two and half hours on iPad, phones and computer games.
Tech is anchoring our children down and too many of them are not doing enough exercise or activity to keep them healthy. The World Cancer Research Fund recently detailed how their report demonstrated a link to 12 major cancers from increased screen time in children.
Jack Shakespeare of UKactive Kids said "movement has stripped out of our children’s lives with 'generation inactive' fed a staple diet of sofa play and screen time...It is vital for the health and happiness of this generation that we find ways to get children active."
Public Health England's head of diet, obesity and physical activity, Dr Alison Tedstone, added: “Physical activity is crucial for good physical and mental health of children and young people - this work is a timely reminder for everyone to do more to help them be more active.”
Nick White, MD of UK Standing Desk Manufacturer iwantastandingdesk.com said "Kids are becoming ever more sedentary and inactive, it makes sense to get them more active in the classroom and create a positive behaviour pattern to take into adulthood...entire schools in the US are becoming all standing with a view to seeding a culture of good health. This can only lead to happier, healthier children."
Given the recent reports that children’s lifespans are estimated to be 5 years shorter due to sedentary habits. The Sport England Survey encouragingly does demonstrate that 3 million children are getting enough activity, exceeding 60 mins a day but the Sports Minister Mims Davies says "the number of young people who are not doing enough is simply unacceptable...we must build a comprehensive and cross Government offer to create a truly active nation."
The biggest takeaway from the survey available here is that children benefit from activity. Their general happiness increases. Their mental health improves and as our recent report detailed they outperform inactive children. We owe it to all our children to raise the bar and get the UK up to speed when it comes to activity at home and in the class room.
Eiger Standing Desk School Trials Are Available Here
Participants for whom the watch was paired with a reward scheme were measured against those on a reward scheme with no watch and results showed the volunteers who wore the watch had 4.8 extra days of activity per month, which they said translates into two extra years of life.
Rand Europe who undertook the largest ever behavioural technology study found that at risk overweight and inactive groups were more likely to demonstrate greater improvements from the process and the average participant would increase their activity by a whopping 34% when using the watch.
Participants who used the watch would pay £12.50 a month if activity targets were not met. Recent research has suggested that losing something is a stronger incentive than gaining a reward and this psychology may also have influenced the study’s findings.
Standing Desk user and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock who we recently reported has called upon the NHS to embrace tech as a preventative measure, said "We must stay at the forefront of emerging technologies like digital medicines because their potential is so huge”
Simon Stevens, head of the NHS has urged employers to encourage staff to lose weight with financial bonuses after he lost three stone on such a scheme in the USA. However critics of this have argued that employers are not responsible for subsiding fighting the decline in public health.
The Apple Watch has a stand meter in the activity app that shows hours in which you've stood and moved for at least a minute. Complete your daily Stand goal by standing up and moving around for at least 1 minute during 12 different hours in the day.
Standing Desk UK Blog reported on Matt Hancock’s new tech led health initiatives Last month.
Many children spend at least nine hours a day sitting down and with anti-sitting research on the rise and a daily target of 30 mins in exercise, teachers are beginning to integrate active learning into their classrooms to combat childhood obesity and improve their academic results.
The BBC has published an article detailing new research on active students.
"International research found that after three years of physically active learning, pupils were still more attentive following the activity...After one active lesson, a child can improve their Maths performance by as much as 16%. If your child learns in an active way, after two years, they could be four months ahead in maths and spelling compared to traditional seated classroom learning."
We reported last month that childhood obesity is responsible for a record breaking 5 year reduction in our children’s expected lifespans. The BBC article breaks down the benefits of combining movement and learning. In only one 45 minute active learning session a child can do 9 minutes of exercise, hitting a third of their daily target.
Andy Daly-Smith for the BBC explained that recently the National Association of Head Teachers passed a motion to encourage all schools to adopt physically active learning. Running around the playground to answer maths questions or getting outdoors for forest schools are just some of the ways UK schools are trying to get their children active.
Super Movers is a popular classroom based approach to active learning and uses videos of well-known children’s characters such as the Worst Witch to get children interested in the active learning experience.
The Worst Witch sings and dances about percentages in a supermovers video.
Meanwhile the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education has reported that students given standing desks have been found to participate more in lessons than those sitting down. A study of 282 students aged seven to ten years old for two terms, showed those with standing desks were 12 per cent more likely to answer questions or join in class discussions.
With the research that being active improves brain connections, focus and academic results combined with schools feeling the increased pressure to achieve new daily movement targets and some US schools going all-standing you should expect to see standing desks and active learning on the rise throughout the UK.
Brace yourselves. Standing Desks are not a miracle elixir with magical cure-all benefits.
The New York Times Aaron Carroll has published an article slating the growing culture of standing desks. Carroll writes that “standing desks have become trendy…research suggests that warnings about sitting at work are overblown, and that standing desks are overrated” This has resulted in a number of spin off articles from lesser known sites extrapolating that standing desks are unnecessary.
In the NYT online, Carroll quickly cites several studies to support his opinion piece including Rempel and Krause (University of California) published work in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine from July 2018 which states that there is little evidence to support the notion that standing desks improve cardiovascular health.
The NYT article has a grandiose title and by-line designed to grab you by the collar, pull you close and challenge your preconceptions. The NYT article throws out words such as “over rated.” Whilst Carroll proposes that standing desks are “not cures” and that “standing is not exercise.” Carefully worded statements designed to decimate the growing belief that standing desks are a good thing that benefit your health.
The article is written by a medical professor of Paediatrics. The author Carroll has constructed his argument based on several studies from specialists in occupational health that explain the correlation between long sitting periods and ill health only being bad when it relates to people who are doing that outside of the work environment and there are very few links between workplace sitting and increased mortality. Suggesting rather that the sitting stats are a marker for social influences to ill health such as unemployment.
Interestingly the New York Times would probably like you to forget that in June they produced a less polarising article on the matter of "exercise versus standing" which cited research that illustrated standing is part of the solution rather than a replacement for exercise. They write "you probably need to do both."
MD of iwantastandingdesk.com Nick White explains that common sense, moderation and breaking the sedentary habit is at the core of the health benefit of a standing desk culture.
"You need to take responsibility for yourself, your health and well-being. Nobody is saying that standing desks are a cure for anything. They are however an important part of the solution. If you sit on your bottom all day, eat poorly and don’t exercise your standing desks isn’t going to magically fix that. Take responsibility for your own lifestyle. A standing desk is a part of the solve. Take the stairs. Park your car a little further away from work and walk. Using a standing desk isn’t a cure but it’ll help you rid yourself of an unhealthy mentality. Legitimate research exists that proves standing desks used in moderation and with sitting breaks will benefit your health and productivity in numerous ways as part of an overall solution"
So White doesn’t believe standing desks are a magical cure-all elixir either. Does this mean they are overrated as Carroll writes or as some spin off articles extrapolated …”unnecessary”?
Perhaps the evidence of cardiovascular benefit has yet to be successfully empirically measured however this absolutely does not negate that a huge 800,000 participant study by the UK’s National Health Service found that, compared with those who sat the least, people who sat the longest had a 112 per cent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, a 147 per cent increase in cardiovascular problems and a 90 per cent increase in death from heart attack and stroke.
Resultingly the NHS in the UK now promotes standing as being part of an overall prescription for healthier living in order to reduce one of the biggest threats to our national health which is the populations growing sedentary habit.
Writing that standing desks are “not a cure” and “standing isn’t exercise” uses a straw-man notion that argues against a point that no one was making. It is unhealthy thinking, that whilst it might garner traffic like click-bait content it doesn’t contribute to the conversation everyone else is having.
Abram Falk commented “This is a strange and unnecessary attack on a device that many find helpful. Nobody was claiming that standing desks were a miracle health device”
Mike from New York wrote “No one argued that standing was exercise. This entire article is addressing a straw man argument. Standing -- for short periods mixed in with walks and sitting -- engages muscles that otherwise go dormant, improves blood flow, improves focus”
Another upvoted comment reads “I have not found anyone, anywhere who suggested that standing was exercise.”
The world’s greatest athletes advocate for healthy mentality. They believe in the power of positivity. Standing desks encourage that mentality. This can’t be empirically proven but it is broadly recognised as an essential element of success.
“small, positive changes, consistently made are a winning combination in life and in business” - Sally Gunnel the only female British athlete to have won Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles. Speaking at a health and well-being seminar she was delivering to businesses.
We live in an age where written pieces must be polarised and there is little room left for common sense. As such we believe impactful influencers such as The New York Times have a responsibility to foster ideas that contribute positively to society. Inactivity is a major health issue. It is the reason our children’s expected lifespans are 5 years shorter now. Taking a position that standing desks are bad because science hasn’t proven the cardiovascular benefits as emphatically as they would like whilst ignoring the myriad of proven health benefits and pro-standing research isn’t offering a balanced take on the movement. It’s getting traffic with controversy. Omitting the pro standing desk research because it doesn’t suit the narrative is unfair to the reader. We felt it was time that someone stood up for standing up. If carrots are suddenly proven not to give you night sight, do you stop eating them as part of a healthy diet? No. We say don’t jack in your jack desks just yet. Include them amongst all your healthy choices.
We all need to change poor habitual stationary behaviour. Standing desks are not a fix-all but they are part of the solution toolkit for combating a sedentary lifestyle.
Want me to prove it? Bookmark the blog. Then stand up. Listen to your body. It’s telling you that this is better. Keep at it and this writer believes you’ll find the results are irrefutable.
Standing desks are available throughout this website. Carrots are available elsewhere.
After a one year trial following persuasion from parents, one California School has made a dramatic change to their classrooms by removing all traditional desks and replacing them with standing desks and resting stools.
The teachers at Vallecito Elementary in the San Francisco Bay area have reported that standing students demonstrate “increased concentration, less fidgeting, and less distracting behaviour”
Parents of pupils at the school Kelly and Juliet Starret who originally petitioned for the new initiative have since launched a non-profit organisation called “StandUpKids”
StandUpKids actively promotes the use of crowdfunding for schools to overcome the financial investment of purchasing standing desks. They provide grants to US schools and aim to have children in every school in America standing within ten years.
NHS guidelines in the UK state that Children under 5 should not be inactive for long periods, except when they're asleep. With the NHS now highlighting the health benefits and reduced BMI in standing kids and the UK’s health secretary actively promoting standing desks it may not be long until a forward thinking UK school makes the step to go entirely standing.
In the face of increasing evidence that sitting too much is leading to serious illness and obesity, the NHS website has published a set of guidelines on how (and why we should) sit down less.
The piece explains how some people are sitting for over 7 hours a day and 10 hours for the older generation. This in turn slows down the metabolism, reduces our body’s natural ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down fat. In short, sitting is making us overweight and ill.
I Want A Standing Desk UK Blog recently reported on Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock’s vision for the future of the NHS being preventative so it comes as no surprise that the new guidelines include the recommendation that people integrate standing desks into their own working days. Mr Hancock is a standing desk user himself and recommends that teams undertake their meetings at standing desks. The health secretary explained that standing meetings tend to be shorter and more efficient.
The NHS have published the Start Active, Stay Active Report which recommends breaking up sitting with short two minutes bouts of activity. A Panel of experts have suggested taking "an active break from sitting every 30 minutes." This can be accomplished with a variable height standing desk whilst allowing you to work through the sitting break.
"Breaking up sitting time engages your muscles and bones, and gives all our bodily functions a boost – a bit like revving a car's engine," says Professor Dunstan.
The NHS has included the following tips to reduce sitting time:
- work standing
- stand on the train or bus
- take the stairs and walk up escalators
- set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes
- stand or walk around while on the phone
- take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break
- walk to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing or calling
- swap some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies
I Want A Standing Desk UK Blog has written about UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock's belief that physical activity is "miracle cure" here.
In light of the shocking revelation that for the first time in history children’s life expectancy is 5 years shorter than their parents designedtomove.org has published a powerful video showing us what children would choose to do with 5 years extra to live.
In 2010 Nike formed a group of 70+ organisations whose mission it was to provide a framework to combat inactivity and understand a path to solving growing sedentary behaviour in children.
After initial launch the Designed To Move report has been refined, validated and published by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE). The group refers to inactivity as an epidemic that threatens our health, happiness and prosperity.
iwantastandingdesk.com and our twitter Standing Desk UK champions activity in schools and workplaces. We are here to help you be ambassadors for the change needed to fix the increase of sedentary behaviour which affects mental and physical health for everyone in your organisation.
We offer standing desk trials for schools and offer free advice to companies on how to successfully integrate standing desks into their workplaces. We proudly stand up and shout about the designedtomove campaign, offering you solutions to help give the children their 5 years back.
Guardian reporter Sally Williams has produced an editorial detailing examples of home-schooling throughout the UK citing statistics from the BBC that show a 40% rise in children being home-schooled since 2014-15. They point out the real number is likely to be even higher given that data is only collected on children who have been removed from school and excludes children who have never registered.
The government currently has no master register for home-schooled children and surprisingly very few restrictions on parents who wish to home-school. Parent/Teachers are not required to have any specific qualifications, don't have to teach the national curriculum, submit their children for national standard testing such as Sats or GCSEs and often allow children to lead their own education by following their own interests.
Many parents are leaning to home-schooling as a solution to their child experiencing issues such as exam stress, bullying or unmet special needs in the standard school environment. One mum in the article explains her thinking;
“School is very oppressive for young people. It’s not natural to be sat at a desk all day, with fluorescent lights, computer screens, barely able to see outside. “
Can schools do anything to counter losing pupils to the growing rise of home-schooling? Anecdotal evidence shows that standing desks in the school environment afford children a greater sense of freedom whilst letting them focus on the work at hand. They help to tackle some the special educational needs many parents feel aren’t being adequately addressed in the school environment.
Brits work some of the longest work weeks in Europe and UK firms are beginning to buck that trend by offering their staff 4 day working weeks.
By reducing lunch hours and annual leave to 45 mins and by 20% respectively Gloucester based outfit Radioactive PR have been able to adopt a 4 day working week and MD Rich Leigh says of his newly reinvigorated staff base “There are two ways to make money in my line of work,” he says, “retain clients and get new ones. Miserable, tired staff can’t do either.”
Last year, more than half a million UK workers were signed off with work related stress or anxiety. Nick White, MD of Iwantastandingdesk.com said “encouraging good mental health in the workplace is absolutely imperative. Britain are notoriously behind trend internationally when it comes to integrating good work/life balance and positive healthy culture into their workplaces.”
“We work with a large number of companies who are invested in their employee’s well-being and frequently report to us that integrating standing desks, reduced work hours and other healthy work space initiatives result in their teams outputting higher quality work and demonstrating incredible loyalty. Not to mention all these measures increase recruitment quality as companies are striving more and more to improve their in-house offering to attract the best talent.”
France recently made it illegal for companies to expect their workers to answer emails out of hours but Britain just hasn’t kept up with our European neighbours and often work long hours often unpaid averaging 10 hours overtime a week and only 34 minute lunch hours.
The EU working time directive sets a limit of 48 working hours a week. Britain is the only EU member that allows workers to opt out of this and work longer hours. Trade unions however believe this is subject to “widespread abuse.”
Videogame companies are one of the worst culprits for insisting on crunch development cycles where staff often report on spending weeks to months not seeing their family’s due to the incredible pressure to meet deadlines. This is frequently regarded as “normal part of the job” but is affecting 76% of the industry despite being clearly unsustainable and damaging to long term productivity. According to research some workers report bouts of depression and low morale following the tech industries notorious crunch periods.
Standing meetings are often shorter, allowing firms to reduce wasted workplace time which research has shown is as damaging to productivity as cannabis smoking.
The Green party and Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress have both campaigned for the implementation of a 4 day working week citing increased automation as an opportunity for companies to spread the benefits of increased profits to its staff base. Should this begin to occur critics might argue that 4 day work weeks as a result of automation might inflate into the development of worklessness as companies begin to realise they need their staff base less and less.
Mark Price former MD of Waitrose believes the increase of the 4 day working week sends the wrong message and suggests that “work is bad and should be done less” he also believes that the public sector can ill afford to reduce working weeks in line with the private sector without increasing taxes to cover this. “I can’t imagine there is much of an appetite for that.”
Should 4 day work weeks be adopted in private sector could that make working for vital public services less appealing and have a negative impact to recruitment in services such as councils and NHS?
Wherever you land on the subject, there appears to be a need to improve our approach to work place health.
Crunch is bad for mental health but can we be more productive by working less? Latest research from Perpetual Guardian, a wealth management firm seems to suggest so as they report an increase in productivity by 24% in firms that take up the 4 days weeks. Following in his firm’s footsteps, Gloucester Managing Director Leigh asks the question “why not give it a try?”.