You may have heard of the newest fad in workplace technology: Height adjustable standing desks. There's a good chance at least one person in your office is a fan of height adjustable standing desks. Now, as we install the most up-to-date remote work technologies in our homes, these gadgets have made their way into our bedrooms, living rooms, and makeshift home offices.
Height adjustable standing desks were all the rage as a way to counteract the negative health effects of sitting in a crouched position for lengthy periods of time. While the craze has waned somewhat (in no small part due to a predictable counter-hype campaign charging standing desks causing knee issues), millions of individuals continue to use them.
Is the hype justified? This article will examine the facts and fiction behind standing desks to try to answer a basic question: are standing workstations beneficial?
The Origin Of Standing Desks
It's not like standing desks have just been introduced. In fact, many renowned thinkers, writers, and leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Darwin developed standing desks to improve posture and enhance attention - names including these have been mentioned before.
Standing desks have a solid basis in science: according to a meta-analysis of research on the topic, it's clear that prolonged sitting consistently leads to significantly higher mortality rates. So, if we assume standing solves the problem, shouldn't it? Right?
The answer, unfortunately, is uncertain. There are a number of reasons why sitting is harmful to your posture and circulation. We do know that sitting is detrimental to your posture and circulation, but there's more to it than that. Height adjustable standing desks, in addition to being a message for obesity (though that's more of a lifestyle issue than one directly connected to sitting), are also an indication of poor posture. So are standing workstations the answer if posture and weight are two of the most prevalent problems associated with sitting?
Are Height Adjustable Standing Desks Better Than Sitting?
There isn't much evidence to make a solid case against sitting because there aren't many studies on the subject, and in part due to a lack of evidence. In other words, we can't effectively claim that standing desks are healthier for you.
Here's what we know so far. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a 2011 study, which revealed that standing desk usage reduced upper back and neck pain while boosting general mood vs sitting down. Given the study's findings, it sounds convincing: "The evidence from our meta-analysis suggests that standing desks might be beneficial." However, there are two apparent flaws to this conclusion: 1) at least some of the benefits may be due to a placebo effect, and 2) the research didn't look into any potential drawbacks of height adjustable desk
Orthopedic Health Effects
Standing is a far better posture, as well as back and neck, than sitting. However, standing for lengthy periods of time has its own set of problems, primarily around knee discomfort. When all the various disadvantages of standing work are taken into account, research around this problem indicates that sitting desks do not provide more orthopedic advantages over standing desks.
There are remedies for some of the negative effects of standing desks. Fatigue mats, for example, have been found in several studies to decrease standing tiredness and knee strain by 60%. While there is no study to support this theory, the difference may be enough to overcome any disadvantages of a height adjustable standing desk setup when compared to a 4-legged counterpart.
Impact On Obesity
Another supposed advantage of standing desks is that they help with weight reduction. On this front, there is a scientific consensus. A standing desk configuration does not burn significantly more calories than sitting down, and it isn't even close to being a miracle obesity cure as it has frequently been advertised to be. At best, you'll lose a few pounds each year, but week to week, it won't make much of a difference.
So, to summarize, while there isn't a lot of research on the physiological effects of standing desks, what little research that exists seems to suggest they aren't all that beneficial.
Are Standing Desks Worth It?
Short answer: It depends.
Long answer: A study published in the Journal of Human Engineering did not find that a standing desk is beneficial from a physical standpoint, but it does not negate the potential for increased productivity. The best answer may vary depending on your own preference and physiological reactions to standing while you work until further research is done on the topic. Even if you don't think standing desks will have a big impact on your physical health, they may still improve your general mood or productivity.
The drawbacks of standing workstations are unrelated to those of sitting workstations. In other words, standing solves many of the difficulties that sitting has while adding its own, and vice versa.
You could come to the conclusion that a hybrid configuration is the best approach to get the most out of both while reducing the danger. Sit-stand desks are becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to a completely sit or stand desk – workstations that may be switched between sitting and standing using electronics.
In theory, this combination should provide the best of both options; minimizing the dangers associated with each approach while also obtaining the benefits.
There's a lot of research out there that supports sitting/standing workstations, but they're still relatively new and misunderstood. A study conducted by a team of researchers in the United Kingdom aimed to address this issue by looking at the effects of thousands of office employees who switched to sit-stand desks. The findings were relatively convincing: employees showed significant gains in job performance, work engagement, occupational fatigue, daily anxiety, and quality of life.
So Should You Buy One?
Standing desks are, without a doubt, overhyped, and the majority of their purported advantages aren't true. Although further study is needed, existing research strongly suggests that standing desks aren't worth the money.
Although sit-stand workstations appear to have some promise, the actual takeaway here is that the real problem is structural rather than practical. We need to take action away from sedentary office jobs in order to promote more active workplaces.
Regardless of your workstation setup, there's one tried-and-true method for boosting your health: go for a walk. By substituting 2 minutes of sedentary behavior with a brief walk around the workplace every hour, office employees saw their risk of dying prematurely reduced by 33%.
Researchers found that simply by getting up to get a glass of water every hour, you're 33 percent less likely to die early. That's a significantly greater health impact (for considerably less money) than any reported advantages of standing desks.
Instead of concentrating on a desk, the greatest workplaces have a balanced combination of sitting, standing, and walking — which is what we need to strive toward in the future.