14

votes

Are standing desks as awesome as we think they are?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 08, 2012 at 7:40 AM

Many years ago I heard a piece on the radio that mentioned waitresses and others who stand for work can be at higher risk for heart disease, varicose veins, and atherosclerosis. I was a barista at the time I heard the piece on the radio so I tried not to think about it, head in the sand style.

But today I found this http://www.arpapress.com/Volumes/Vol8Issue1/IJRRAS_8_1_03.pdf while wondering about my aching back and sore ankle and am thinking about it more. This doesn't lead me to believe that sitting on one's butt all day is the best idea either, but it seems unnatural to be chained to any particular posture for an extended period of time. I've spent almost all of my adult working life standing, and now have a standing desk at home, but I'm thinking that I might need change it up a bit, and do more reclining.

*Edit:*It just occurred to me that there are certainly confounding lifestyle variables here, since the majority of standing jobs have historically been lower paid positions. I know standing desks in higher paid office jobs are newish, but has anyone seen data yet on the impact of health with white collar workers other than the "increased activity levels of standing compared to sitting 8-10 hours per day improves fitness" type reports.

Medium avatar

(624)

on September 13, 2013
at 08:17 PM

LOL @ walking desk. I can just imagine people in their cubicals in some 10th floor office space walking slowly on treadmills all day in front of their computers. Heck, maybe they can even help power the office space! Human-gerbil power FTW!

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 13, 2013
at 06:15 PM

Gosh it is so much harder to rid ourselves of SPAM these days...

A3c56c85290f748410a6f340ddd552b3

(321)

on December 02, 2012
at 04:13 PM

Same thing. I wander around a lot more when standing than sitting. Kind of weird.

A45af235ed4dd0b4f548c59e91b75763

(1936)

on March 09, 2012
at 02:38 PM

Treadmill desks are pretty cool. I can't get away with that at my work though. I use a hard stool with my standing desk, so I don't sit for very long until my butt starts hurting. I stand until my legs complain and then back to my stool. That way, I am up and down all day long. I pretty much stand and sit without thinking about it now, so it causes very little distraction from my work.

A45af235ed4dd0b4f548c59e91b75763

(1936)

on March 09, 2012
at 02:37 PM

Treadmill desks are pretty cool. I can't get away with that at my work though. I use a hard stool with my standing desk, so I don't sit for very long until my butt starts hurting. I stand until my feet hurt and then back to my stool. That way, I am up and down all day long. I pretty much stand and sit without thinking about it now, so it causes very little distraction from my work.

A45af235ed4dd0b4f548c59e91b75763

(1936)

on March 09, 2012
at 02:31 PM

Do you have an anti-fatigue mat? Also, I use a small stool to raise one foot. I have no throbbing in my feet. There is no ideal solution. Working at a desk all day is anti to what our bodies where designed for. Standing just works better for some people as it allows for more freedom of movement.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on March 09, 2012
at 01:44 PM

That may be okay for some kinds of computer work, but programmers need to lock into a task for a few hours to really get in the zone. A break every 20 minutes would make that impossible. It'd be like having someone wake you up every 20 minutes at night; you'd never get real sleep. So we can either stand and have *some* movement, or sit like a statue until we notice the pain. I guess the answer will be computers that we can simply "think" to, so we can walk around while we work.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on March 09, 2012
at 01:37 PM

Yes, I think "standing desk" is a bit of a misnomer. When I tried it, I didn't stand still that much. When thinking about the next thing to type, or talking on the phone, or reading a document, I'd be pacing or strolling around. I don't do those things when I'm working from a chair, although I could. It's just more trouble to get up out of a chair, so we don't unless we make a conscious effort to do so. When standing, it's more likely to just happen. I don't have a standing desk at my new office yet, but I probably will soon.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:32 AM

Thinking back to the occasional double shift where I was on my feet for 12 hours, mostly standing in one place in front of the espresso machine I thought I was going to die. When I spend too much time in front of the computer now at my standing desk I sometimes get flashbacks to that feeling my legs pool with blood. I came away from that job with some extra vericose veins. We deflated our exercise ball because it seemed too big for our tiny house, but I am seriously considering reinflating it, I always like bouncing to music while typing.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on March 08, 2012
at 11:06 PM

Standing a sitting desk does make it look like you are trying to moon all of a your coworkers, certainly not advised. I do like the freedom to pace around and think with my standing desk, but if I get caught up in something interesting I often don't realize that I've been frozen in the same place for an hour until my feet start to throb.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 08, 2012
at 02:52 PM

dancing for an hour is mandatory in my office. Good thing I work from home.

9205855633f4d88fd78339aad4fc54ff

on March 08, 2012
at 12:50 PM

yeah, plus standing still

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12 Answers

7
8e3782b68e033763485472f414f507a5

(2433)

on March 08, 2012
at 12:45 PM

Keep in mind that most people nowadays have terrible posture (see Esther Gokhale's work), so standing for them might actually be harmful. (As is sitting, for probably the same reason.)

But even with good posture, the notion that standing all day is better than sitting never made sense to me. I think a balance is most reasonable -- stand for an hour, sit for an hour, etc.

9205855633f4d88fd78339aad4fc54ff

on March 08, 2012
at 12:50 PM

yeah, plus standing still

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 08, 2012
at 02:52 PM

dancing for an hour is mandatory in my office. Good thing I work from home.

6
A7768b6c6be7f5d6acc76e5efa66464c

on March 08, 2012
at 02:33 PM

I started standing in December. I think people imagine us standing like a statue all day, but that's not how it work for me. I frequently take sitting breaks, I sit down for lunch, and I constantly shift my weight around, prop one foot up on something for awhile, then the other, etc. I will say that standing in shoes seems problematic for me, as it tends to put too much strain on my heals. Doffing my shoes tends to encourage me to naturally put my weight more on the balls of my feet, and this ultimately reduces or even eliminates discomfort. I think there may be some best practices, and some not-so-good practices with standing desks. For me, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks, at least for now.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on March 09, 2012
at 01:37 PM

Yes, I think "standing desk" is a bit of a misnomer. When I tried it, I didn't stand still that much. When thinking about the next thing to type, or talking on the phone, or reading a document, I'd be pacing or strolling around. I don't do those things when I'm working from a chair, although I could. It's just more trouble to get up out of a chair, so we don't unless we make a conscious effort to do so. When standing, it's more likely to just happen. I don't have a standing desk at my new office yet, but I probably will soon.

5
A45af235ed4dd0b4f548c59e91b75763

(1936)

on March 08, 2012
at 10:53 PM

I switched to a standing desk at work several months ago and I can't imagine going back. That said, I do sit when I get tired (on a stool) and I walk around as much as possible. I don't think standing in one place is any better for you than sitting is. The reason a standing desk is healthier is because it gives you the option. You can't stand at a sitting desk when you need to.

I???ve worked in many industries, both standing and sitting. I???ve worked in coffee shops, fish plants, the IT industry and now accounting. I have never in my life met so many ill and overweight people as in the accounting industry. For the first 5 years as an accountant I worked sitting down. I gained 20 lbs, and was having chronic back problems, numerous headaches and terrible posture problems (my upper back was starting to curve). Paleo eating helped me loose the weight, but I was still suffering.

Since switching to my standing desk, I have NO back issues anymore, headaches are drastically reduced (I do still stare at a stupid computer all day), hunch is GONE.

I love it.. I recommend everyone try it. If you work in a cubicle like I do, you can raise your desk very easily. I???ve converted two other people at my workplace and have several more working to make the change as well.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on March 08, 2012
at 11:06 PM

Standing a sitting desk does make it look like you are trying to moon all of a your coworkers, certainly not advised. I do like the freedom to pace around and think with my standing desk, but if I get caught up in something interesting I often don't realize that I've been frozen in the same place for an hour until my feet start to throb.

A45af235ed4dd0b4f548c59e91b75763

(1936)

on March 09, 2012
at 02:31 PM

Do you have an anti-fatigue mat? Also, I use a small stool to raise one foot. I have no throbbing in my feet. There is no ideal solution. Working at a desk all day is anti to what our bodies where designed for. Standing just works better for some people as it allows for more freedom of movement.

5
66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

on March 08, 2012
at 03:16 PM

good question. I thought about a standing desk for awhile but i've had no back issues since 1) sitting according to the esther gokhale method 2) getting up and walking around once and hour for ten minutes and 3) doing yoga for 15-20 minutes several times a week or 90 minutes once a week to loosen up the hips and shoulders- the two areas that sitting all day are likely to impact.

we're creatures trying to navigate the traps of the modern world. we don't always have to resort have archaic methods to rectify issues when sometimes just smart, common-sense application of knowledge and research will do.

3
C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd

on March 08, 2012
at 02:39 PM

An adjustable standing desk (sit-stand desks) combined with adjustable stool might be best. It might be wise to change position every couple of hours. I'm naturally restless so I tend to do this. You can easily do air squats when sitting from time to time also.

Of course the walking desk might be even better since the posture is probably more self correcting in a walk. For some reason its easier to walk around than to stand still for a long period of time.

Medium avatar

(624)

on September 13, 2013
at 08:17 PM

LOL @ walking desk. I can just imagine people in their cubicals in some 10th floor office space walking slowly on treadmills all day in front of their computers. Heck, maybe they can even help power the office space! Human-gerbil power FTW!

2
Dbbc316ff61d1204d89b080d1c4e09ee

on March 09, 2012
at 02:22 PM

I switched to a standing desk months ago, and feel healthier for doing so, and cannot think of any detriments to my health.

During those times when I scan the Internet for fun, I switch my weight from foot to foot, placing 100% of my weight on the substantial leg. This is a deliberate tactic which has helped strengthen my legs. It is easy to remember to shift weight as I transition from site to site.

When I concentrate on an engaging task, such as programming, then I stand 50-50 until such time as the lordosis resulting from my imperfect posture makes enough noise, and then I'll stretch out the problem. When I programmed whilst sitting, poor posture took much longer to register its complaints, and thus I consider programming while standing to be superior to programming while sitting.

I find writing to be more difficult while standing than sitting, but I cannot explain why. I also find reading long documents more difficult while standing. But then, long documents are best printed and read far away from the distractions available with a browser.

2
7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on March 09, 2012
at 12:32 AM

Here's an argument for sitting while doing computer work from the Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group:

The Perils of Sitting Sitting for more than 1 hour has been shown to induce biochemical changes in lipase activity (an enzyme involved in fat metabolism) and in glucose metabolism that leads to the deposit of fats in adipose tissue rather than these being metabolized by muscle, and extensive sitting also relates to heart disease risks, so people are advocating standing to work because this use more muscle activity (burns about 20% more calories). These changes happen in both fit people who regularly aerobically work out and also unfit and obese people, so regular exercise doesn???t address this.

The Perils of Standing But, standing to work has long known to be problematic, it is more tiring, it dramatically increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis (ninefold) because of the additional load on the circulatory system, and it also increases the risks of varicose veins, so standing all day is unhealthy. The performance of many fine motor skills also is less good when people stand rather than sit.

...

The bottom line: Sit to do computer work. Sit using a height-adjustable, downward titling keyboard tray for the best work posture, then every 20 minutes stand for 2 minutes AND MOVE. The absolute time isn???t critical but about every 20-30 minutes take a posture break and move for a couple of minutes. Simply standing is insufficient. Movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles.

A45af235ed4dd0b4f548c59e91b75763

(1936)

on March 09, 2012
at 02:38 PM

Treadmill desks are pretty cool. I can't get away with that at my work though. I use a hard stool with my standing desk, so I don't sit for very long until my butt starts hurting. I stand until my legs complain and then back to my stool. That way, I am up and down all day long. I pretty much stand and sit without thinking about it now, so it causes very little distraction from my work.

03fa485bfd54734522755f47a5e6597e

(3944)

on March 09, 2012
at 01:44 PM

That may be okay for some kinds of computer work, but programmers need to lock into a task for a few hours to really get in the zone. A break every 20 minutes would make that impossible. It'd be like having someone wake you up every 20 minutes at night; you'd never get real sleep. So we can either stand and have *some* movement, or sit like a statue until we notice the pain. I guess the answer will be computers that we can simply "think" to, so we can walk around while we work.

A45af235ed4dd0b4f548c59e91b75763

(1936)

on March 09, 2012
at 02:37 PM

Treadmill desks are pretty cool. I can't get away with that at my work though. I use a hard stool with my standing desk, so I don't sit for very long until my butt starts hurting. I stand until my feet hurt and then back to my stool. That way, I am up and down all day long. I pretty much stand and sit without thinking about it now, so it causes very little distraction from my work.

2
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on March 08, 2012
at 08:05 PM

I can change my desk height, and I catch myself sitting more often than standing. When standing, I often find myself walking away from the desk, as if some evolutionary compulsion kicks and says, hey, start wandering around! I think Nassim Taleb does some wandering around. Seth Roberts suggests a little walking around too, but he also thinks a lying down might be the way to do computer workhttp://blog.sethroberts.net/2011/09/03/standing-desks-are-on-the-rise/.

I saw a product review once of some glasses that created the appearance of a transparent screen about 10ft in front of the person wearing it. Supposedly you could still walk around, interact, and perhaps even look normal. It likely presents a host of other problems, but I wish that had come to market. At least, I don't think it did. I haven't seen anything like it since.

A3c56c85290f748410a6f340ddd552b3

(321)

on December 02, 2012
at 04:13 PM

Same thing. I wander around a lot more when standing than sitting. Kind of weird.

1
7d01d86c539003eed77cf901bf037412

(1076)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:23 AM

I have had a standing desk for some months now. Because I typically have a couple of meetings a day, I am rarely actually standing for more than a couple of hours before I sit for a while. I feel I swapped from mostly sitting with occasional breaks standing/walking to the other way around.

Can't say I've noticed any great benefits but my knees have old injuries that grumble when they're flexed for a long time, so I prefer to stand for comfort's sake.

1
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on March 08, 2012
at 07:40 PM

I think its more about fluid motion. Sitting tends to stagnate everything. The design of a chair also rounds out the lumbar curve and places discs and structures in flexion/compression. Doing it for 2-3 hr. here and there though out the day? Probably no problem. 8-10hsr? Big problem.....hows that saying go "the dose makes the poison"? I think its relevant in this instance also. So a standing desk allows more variety of alignment, motion, and different stress points as does dancing. This is all just from a biomechanical perspective of course.

1
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on March 08, 2012
at 03:39 PM

Good question. I got the only spider veins I've ever had at age 17 working as a waitress in a truck stop.

Personally, I prefer to recline on my sofa or sit on my exercise ball if I am working on the computer.

On Sunday, I squatted in the back of the room at an hour-long lecture in a local bookstore. I was so much more comfortable than I would have been sitting on one of the metal folding chairs offered & I could change position easily.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:32 AM

Thinking back to the occasional double shift where I was on my feet for 12 hours, mostly standing in one place in front of the espresso machine I thought I was going to die. When I spend too much time in front of the computer now at my standing desk I sometimes get flashbacks to that feeling my legs pool with blood. I came away from that job with some extra vericose veins. We deflated our exercise ball because it seemed too big for our tiny house, but I am seriously considering reinflating it, I always like bouncing to music while typing.

0
00a7c3b16834b5f789f93130025f3219

(0)

on September 13, 2013
at 05:42 PM

I really like standing. I use the stand steady www.standsteady. For me the biggest trick is to wear very comfortable shoes (I wear sketchers WITH dr scholls heel inserts) and use an anti-fatigue mat. Your feet are going to need good cushioning if you stand all day.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 13, 2013
at 06:15 PM

Gosh it is so much harder to rid ourselves of SPAM these days...

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