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The popularity of standing desks has grown over the years with numerous studies showing that being sedentary is not good for hour health, even at work. It’s a well-known fact that sitting all day at work leads to various chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even some types of cancers. Research even shows that it’s more dangerous than smoking. According to James Levine, MD, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic,

“We are sitting ourselves to death.”.

James Levine, MD

Some people have interpreted this to mean that sitting at work, in general, should be discouraged and avoided at all costs. For this reason, standing desks have become trendy with work safety professionals, researchers, and office furniture manufacturers pushing for sit-stand working stations as a way to curb the health effects resulting from prolonged sitting.

But are they worth it?

Are Standing Desks Overrated?

Recent research suggests that warnings about sitting in the workplace are actually overblown and that standing desks are overrated as a way to reduce the risks that come with prolonged sitting at work.

According to Dr. David Rempel, a professor of medicine at the University of California, there is no scientific evidence supporting the use of sit-to-stand desks. [1]

man at standing desk

These findings have of course made a lot of office workers and other professionals whose jobs require predominantly sitting start questioning whether these desks really offer the health benefits they are purported to offer or whether it’s just a fad.

Well, this is exactly what we aim to unravel in this comprehensive and unbiased article.

According to research, sitting is bad, but standing is not the perfect solution either. These studies are not just referring to a few minutes of standing.

In fact, standing on a regular basis while working has been recommended countless times by well-meaning safety professionals and standing desk advocates.

However, prolonged standing- typically more than 5 hours per day is considered twice as risky as sitting continuously for the same amount of time.

Various studies have shown that standing for a long period of time increases your risk of heart disease.

One study [2] which followed 7300 workers from Ontario Canada for a period of 12 years found that those who primarily stood on the job were twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as those who sat most of the time.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found the risk of heart disease for those whose jobs required standing stood at 6.6% and 2.8% for those predominantly sat in their workplace.

The Risk of Heart Disease

According to the study, the most likely cause for heart disease in workers who stood for prolonged periods was due to blood pooling in their legs. That, in addition to an increase of pressure in the veins as well as an increase in oxidative stress in the blood vessels.

Over time, the excessive pressure on the blood vessel walls resulted in an increased risk of cardiovascular complications.

heart attack

The study findings also indicated that heart disease isn’t the only health concern resulting from prolonged standing at work.

Standing for many hours has been linked to long-term back pain, lower-limb fatigue, musculoskeletal disorder, and even serious pregnancy-related complications such as spontaneous abortions and preterm births.

Prolonged Standing Promotes Poor Posture

Maintaining a proper posture while standing can be a little bit challenging for many people. It gets worse when someone has to stand for 5 up to 8 hours continuously. The simple reason for this is that the human body is just not designed to adapt to such a posture.

back pain from sitting

This often results in a poor posture where a person may start to slouch due to improper spine alignment. Office workers using standing desks for extended periods may also experience lower back issues, a very common complaint.

This is ironic because one of the main reasons why many people opt for standing desks is to relieve their back pain and fatigue from prolonged sitting at work.

Standing for Extended Periods Causes Excessive Fatigue

Various studies have looked into the ergonomics of standing desks and the findings are not surprising at all. One study carried out in 2018 investigated the possible changes in discomfort and cognitive function when the participants performed computer tasks while using height-adjustable desks. [3]

After just two hours, the participants complained of extreme muscle fatigue, lower limb swelling, mental state deterioration as well as reduced focus and reaction time.

This study just shows how prolonged standing can result in not just heart disease, but also numerous health concerns that may significantly impact the productivity of workers.

Based on these studies, it would be easy to assume that standing desks are overrated. However, something important you should understand is that these health issues only arise from prolonged standing.

Switching between sitting and standing in sit-stand workstations can greatly minimize the risks that come with prolonged sitting. This is something that has been proven time and again.

These desks allow people whose jobs demand sitting down all the time to ease the aches and pains. They are especially useful for people suffering from low back pain and neck pain.

The key here is understanding that these desks are not meant to be used continuously. Alternating between sitting and standing is the only way to reap the benefits. Standing for 8 hours a day is actually very bad for you.

Here are some of their most notable health benefits:

1. Sit Stand Desks Relieve Muscle Ache, Pains, and Fatigue

One of the main reasons why standing desks are being promoted by health officials and office furniture manufacturers is due to the convenience and comfort.

When a worker performs computer work while standing for a few minutes, all the muscle fatigue and ache, lower back pain, and fatigue are relieved. The desks offer a convenient way to take short breaks from sitting, which is ultimately healthier than sitting all day long.

man at standing desk workplace

Furthermore, standing up on a regular basis generally encourages you to move, not to mention adding variations to the way we position our bodies. As a result, this helps reduce the risk of the many health issues associated with prolonged sitting.

2. A Standing Desk Can Help Burn a Few Calories

It’s true that working while standing can help you lose a little bit of weight. However, people should not assume that using sit-to-stand desks is a good way to exercise and burn a few calories. Standing in the office is not a substitute for exercise.

Sure, you could burn a few calories (usually 100-130 per hour depending on your age, weight, body mass index, health, and other factors) while standing.

However, engaging in physical activity like taking regular walking breaks is a much better alternative than sitting at work or standing all day. Furthermore, standing doesn’t make you increase energy expenditure more than sitting. One study found that the mean difference in energy expenditure between standing and sitting is only 9 calories, which is pretty negligible.

What this means is that using a standing desk can be good for reducing your overall weight, however, this doesn’t mean you should ditch the gym altogether. The chances of losing a significant amount of weight with a sit-stand desk are minimal.

If your goal is to shed a few pounds, treadmill desks are another excellent choice as they allow you to get up and move constantly.

3. Sit Stand Desks Can Improve Posture

bad posture while sitting

This might seem contradictory as we’ve previously mentioned that using a standing desk can cause poor posture.

Well, sit to stand desks can help improve posture, but they can be detrimental to your posture and overall health when used for too long and on a regular basis. In other words, only prolonged standing can be bad for your posture.

You see, sitting for long periods causes back problems, especially when using a poorly constructed, non-ergonomic office chair.

Using a standing desk is a good way to alleviate back pain and also promote a better posture.

Wanna give a try to a standing desk? Check out our list of standing desks.

That said;

Can We Conclude that Standing Desks are Overrated? Our Final Verdict?

Well, truth be told, standing desks are overrated, but just a little bit. We cannot ignore the fact that they help prevent a good number of health problems caused by sitting for too long. When used the right way, these desks can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease, back problems, and posture issues, not to mention maintain healthy blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol.

Experts recommend switching between sitting and standing every 15-30 minutes to enjoy the benefits and improve your productivity.

Many employers are now promoting the sit-and-stand concept to their employees. It’s not uncommon to find these height-adjustable desks in the workplace. More and more people are now embracing the standing desk concept and it seems to be going on pretty well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Standing Desks Really Better For You?

If you’re considering purchasing a sit-to-stand desk, you’re probably wondering whether you’ll be making the right choice. Well, to ease your mind, a standing desk is actually better for you.

The reason is that these desks are height-adjustable, meaning that you are able to easily switch between a sitting and standing position.
This means you’ll never again have to sit for extended periods or stand for many hours while working. Many people will agree that sit-to-stand desks are really better for you, as long as they are used correctly.

Are Standing Desks a Fad?

Some people may argue that sit-to-stand desks are a fad. This is not true. These desks are not going anywhere. They are here to stay. There are way many people suffering from lower back issues, spinal injuries, neck pain, shoulder pain, and many other health concerns, who may benefit immensely from these desks.

So no, standing desks are not a fad. They are as useful as ergonomic office chairs. Furthermore, it’s always nice to have options especially if you suffer from pain and aches.

Do You Really Need a Standing Desk?

You will work better when using a standing desk instead of sitting all day on your chair. The benefits of alternating between sitting and standing cannot be underestimated. However, regular physical activity is crucial as well as standing while working is not a form of exercise.

What are the Benefits of a Standing Desk?

The benefits of a sit-to-stand desk include but are not limited to reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal issues, lower back issues, spinal issues, neck pain, poor posture, minimal weight loss, and so many more.

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