When I was dealing with back pain after a car accident, my physical therapist recommended trying a standing desk at work. I only lasted a few days — I quickly realized I'm too lazy to stand for eight hours — but the health benefits of standing desks are widely touted. The Mayo Clinic says standing desks can help alleviate some of the risks that come with sitting for long periods of time, like high blood pressure and increased blood sugar. But a new study has found that whether standing desks are good for you is up for a little bit of a debate.
Researchers from Curtin University in Australia looked at the potential downsides of a standing desk in the research, which is published in journal Ergonomics. They found that after just two hours of using a standing desk, physical discomfort sets in. The 20 study participants also reported a "decreased mental state." So what do the experts recommend? "The observed changes suggest replacing office work sitting with standing should be done with caution," the study says. If you're uncomfortable while working, it makes sense that you'll be less productive. Researchers did find an improvement in creative problem-solving while standing, so all of the findings weren't negative.
Even though we'll need more research with a larger sample size before we can conclusively say whether standing desks are beneficial or harmful, the conclusion reached in this study definitely deserves our attention.
Standing is being used to replace sitting by office workers; however, there are health risks associated with prolonged standing. In a laboratory study involving 2 h prolonged standing discomfort increased (all body areas), reaction time and mental state deteriorated while creative problem-solving improved. Prolonged standing should be undertaken with caution.
Although I didn't stick with a standing desk, it did help ease my back pain when I used one, which is in line with previous research. A 2017 meta-analysis found that standing workstations can help reduce lower back pain among office workers, which means no one has to take their standing workstation to the dumpster just yet. It's just important to keep an eye on this research and be aware of the risks associated with standing while working.
So what should you do if you hate sitting in front of a computer screen all day? Thanks to research from the state of Washington's labor agency, we may have an answer. They found that active break activities are the most effective way to reduce muscle pain and show more results than standing or sitting. It can be tempting to spend your downtime at work scrolling through social media sites, but it's healthier to take a walk or stretch at your desk. And if you do have a standing desk (and like using it), using it properly is a way to make sure you're avoiding any of the symptoms that may appear with misuse. The Mayo Clinic recommends making sure your head, neck and torso are in line, keeping your upper arms close to your body, keeping your wrists straight and making sure your hands are at or below your elbows.
I have to admit, as someone who never loved the idea of a standing desk out of sheer laziness, this study feels pretty validating, even though it doesn’t conclude that standing is necessarily bad for you. But it is a reminder that staying at your desk all day, whether you’re sitting or standing, can affect your health negatively in the long run. I usually only leave my office chair to eat or use the bathroom, and I don’t see myself embarking on casual jogs during break time, but I’m going to attempt to do some stretching on my lunch break after reading this research.