The Potential Health Benefits of Standing at Work

With more and more research linking a sedentary lifestyle to mortality and chronic diseases, faculty and students at Jacksonville University are conducting a study aimed at showing the impacts of standing on student health. The Florida Times Union reports that Jacksonville University will use “standing desks,” to help reduce the eight to nine hours that a college student spends sitting during the day.

Jacksonville’s study begins on the heels of a recent NPR article stating that standing desks are more or less just a fad and not proven to have any significant health benefits.

According to occupational health researcher Dr. Jos Verbeek, they could even have negative effects like a high risk of hospitalization for enlarged veins. On the other hand, Lucas Carr, a behavioral medicine professor at the University of Iowa believes that those who stand in moderation on a daily basis will eventually see benefits, as more calories are burned while standing.

This new research, a part of Jacksonville’s Florida EPIC (Entrepreneurism, Policy, Innovation, and Commerce) Program, hopes to make students more productive and engaged in their education by reducing sitting time—ultimately resulting in students more fit to enter the workforce.

To measure their success, the Jacksonville researchers will assess the students’ physical and mental health at various points throughout the semester. Dr. Heather Hausenblas, the lead researcher and professor of Kinesiology at Jacksonville hopes to find that standing instead of sitting at the desks “reduces students’ level of stress; increases their focus, memory, and productivity; and affects their quality of life.”

College students are a segment of the population that spend a large portion of their free time sedentary and when coupled with long seated lectures, the hours can quickly add up. Dr. Hausenblas states that there has not been a study involving standing desks and college students, but studies with young children and middle-aged adults have shown promising results.

The study at Jacksonville is very similar to a recent study at a Texas call center where standing desks were also used. Researchers in the study found that not only were those employees who used standing desks more productive, but they became increasingly more productive over time.

In the first month, the standing employees had a call rate that was 23% more successful than those who were seated, and by the sixth month the rate climbed to 53%.

As limited research exists on the health benefits of standing, it will be interesting to see the results of Jacksonville’s study and consider their implications for the growing number of workplace wellness initiatives which incorporate or promote standing desks.