It’s true. Working at a standing desk can elevate your mood, according to multiple studies.
From sitting to standing
A study in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity looked at a group of adults who spent their working days in a sedentary position, and split them into three sub-groups. One completed a moderate-intensity walk in the morning before work, another stayed seated all day, and a third interrupted their sitting with 6 micro-bouts of moderate intensity walking.
The study looked at self-perceived energy, appetite and mood during this period.
The participants that did their physical activity in a single burst in the morning reported improved energy levels through the day (as you’d expect!).
Those that performed their hourly micro-movements throughout the day also reported increased energy, but crucially, improved mood and reduced food cravings too.
Interestingly, it wasn’t particularly the walking that provided benefits in this case. While standing desk workstations have been studied elsewhere, this study found that transitioning from a sitting to standing position every 30 minutes for 4 days positively promoted concentration, alertness, motivation and activity.
The use of height-adjustable desks (also known as sit-stand desks) that allow the user to move seamlessly between seated to upright postures have also been shown to reduce feelings of fatigue. Affordability can be a barrier to widespread adoption of these desks though, as they can run into the thousands of pounds for a single unit, so standing desk converters and cheap standing desk alternatives have become popular in light of this.
Improved mood and moving around
Another study published in the CDC’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, introduced a set of sit-stand devices (ie. adjustable-height desks) into a sedentary office environment, and encouraged workers to use them. Upon seeing an average reduction of 66 minutes per day of sitting time, the researchers observed a 54% reduction in upper back pain and neck pain, as well as consistently improved mood states.
What’s more — after the workstations were removed, all positive benefits from the study disappeared within 2 weeks.
You can imagine the workers had something to say about their working environments after the trial was completed!
Apple watches and wearable fitness devices are now capable of giving us a subtle buzz when it’s time to move or stand.
As we know, physical activity in general improves mood and energy levels. Importantly though, the most beneficial way to do this is by spreading out our micro-movements through the day. Whether it’s by using a standing desk, going for a walk, or running up and down the stairs. As long as you transition from sit to stand regularly, you should observe at least a subtle improvement in your daily wellbeing.
Kelly Starrett, in his book Deskbound: Standing Up To A Sitting World, suggests using standing desks but also having two-minute ‘movement breaks’ every 30 minutes. This can involve different movements each time, and should ‘get blood circulating to areas that have been idle and poorly perfused, most notably your neck, arms, wrists, and fingers. You can perform these while still standing at your desk, or during a short walk elsewhere.
(While every 30 minutes may seem a lot, it’s a goal to work towards, not immediately start with.)
As well as the short term-self reported mood changes during the above trials, it’s worth noting that improved health, reduced back pain, reduced hip pain, and better blood circulation are just some of the longer-term improvements to wellbeing that would bring increased satisfaction and happiness to the afflicted — and fewer doctor’s notes. Which is sure to lift anyone’s mood.
Standing desks, combined with regular postural changes and movement breaks, can contribute towards these benefits, and much more!
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