Recently, you may have seen commercials for a relatively new innovation in ergonomic workspace furniture known as the standing desk. That’s the one that can be adjusted so you can stand while working on a computer or viewing a monitor instead of sitting at your desk for hours at a time.
One of the big selling points of a standing desk is that it’s good for your health and posture since extended sitting is widely considered “the new smoking,” and is linked in some studies to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and higher cholesterol levels – not to mention the effects it can have on your muscles and joints.
But is standing for long periods of time any better than being sedentary? Let’s dig deeper into the research.
Stand Up or Sit Down?
While there is growing evidence that sitting for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health, there is also research that suggests that standing for hours at a time can also have negative consequences. In fact, one recent study published in the journal Ergonomics showed that participants who stood for two hours at a time exhibited an increase in lower limb swelling and a decreased mental state.
At first glance, standing while you work would seem like a healthy alternative to “occupational sitting,” especially when the latter is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and an increased overall mortality risk. And yet, another study of 7,000 office workers published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that occupations in which workers mostly stood had twice the risk of heart disease, as compared to jobs in which workers mostly remained seated.
Physiology experts tend to agree that the growing use of standing desks is being driven more by popularity and profit than scientific evidence. And it’s not as if you can simply advocate for a combination of both sitting, standing, and walking. In the study mentioned above, researchers concluded that the risk of cardiovascular disease in occupations that involved a combination of sitting, standing, and walking held different results for men and women: it decreased cardiovascular risk for men, but raised it for women.
The consensus among medical experts is that it’s best if workers take occasional walks rather than stand at their desks for long periods of time.
Tips for Using Standing Desks
But you don’t have to avoid standing desks. After all, they can be adjusted, enabling you to alternate between standing and sitting, provided you don’t do either for more than two hours at a time.
Also, when using a standing desk, make sure the surface and the screen are adjusted for your height with the top of the monitor at eye level, and the desk and your elbows making a right angle when you are standing up straight.
Lastly, make sure that you wear comfortable shoes to prevent swelling or discomfort in the legs. Women should keep in mind that high heels are not a good match for a standing desk.
Regardless of whether you sit or stand, be sure to get up and walk around periodically to avoid back and leg pain.
For more suggestions on workplace ergonomics, consult a reputable, board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who can educate you about your options. The staff at Orthopaedic Associates utilizes both cutting-edge therapies and traditional treatments to address a variety of orthopedic conditions. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call (440) 892-1440.