Standing Desks

Benefits for Blood Sugar

By Charles Li, MD
December 18th, 2020

Does Standing Help With Blood Sugar?

You've probably seen at least one standing desk invade your office. Lately, they seem to be all the rage. But, how much do they actually help?

When it comes to blood sugar, there's a fairly good amount of evidence suggesting that standing desks can help.

Sitting for too long in general can be harmful to your health, particularly when it comes to diabetes.

One meta-analysis that combined 18 studies found that those who sit the most also had the highest risk of diabetes.

Similar risks were found for heart disease and all cause mortality.

Meta-analysis on Risks of Sitting
Sitting and Diabetes
Risk of diabetes with excessive sitting.
Relative Risks for those who sit the most
Less Sitting
2.12x (1.61-2.78)
Heart Disease
2.47x (1.44-4.24)
All Cause Mortality
1.49x (1.14-2.03)
18 Studies
Wilmot et al
The Risks of Sitting. A meta-analysis of 18 studies found that those who sit the most have significantly higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and all-cause mortality.
Study Source
From the abstract:

"Sedentary time is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality; the strength of the association is most consistent for diabetes."

Wilmot et al

Standing at Work

Standing at work, particularly after eating lunch, has been specifically demonstrated to be beneficial for your blood sugar.

One small study looking at individuals who had just eaten lunch found that those who were standing had significantly lower blood sugar spikes than those who were sitting.

Standing at Work
Benefits for Blood Sugar
Decrease in blood glucose excursion for standing vs. sitting
Blood Glucose Excursion
143  (5-281)
326  (228-425)
Endpoint: Blood glucose after lunch
Buckley et al
A small study looking at standing and sitting found that those who stand after eating at work have significantly less increased blood sugar than those who sit.
Study Source
From the abstract:

"This is the first known 'office-based' study to provide CGM measures that add some of the needed mechanistic information to the existing evidence-base on why avoiding sedentary behaviour at work could lead to a reduced risk of cardiometabolic diseases."

Standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating post-prandial glycaemic excursion

Standing Desks and Calorie Burn

Diabetes is what we call a metabolic disease. One of the best ways of keeping diabetes under control is eating better and exercising better.

Standing desks have been specifically demonstrated to potentially help people burn more calories compared to sitting.

One study looking at kids who were assigned to use either a standing desk or sitting desk found that those who used the standing desk actually gained less weight than those who used sitting desks.

Standing & Obesity in Children
Do Standing Desks Help Kids?
After 2 years of study, researchers found the following BMI changes:
Sitting Desks
+0.4 BMI
+0.1 BMI
2 years of study
Wendel et al, 2016
A 2-year study found that children who used sitting desks had significantly more BMI weight gain than those who used a standing desk.

A second study found that individuals burn more calories as well when using a standing desk.

Standing Desks for Obesity in School
Calories: Standing vs. Sitting
Among 21 overweight children, researchers found that standing desks may burn more calories:
Calories burned per minute
1.56 kcal/min
1.18 kcal/min
Measured with arm bands
10 days
Benden et al, 2011
Among 21 overweight children, those who used a standing desk burned more calories than those who were sitting.