Will Standing Desks Solve my problems?


Sitting for a living has been mooted as the new smoking with the effects being reported to increase morbidity and even decrease life expectancy. So should we all be using one?

Some of the difficulty in examining the research data is that many of the studies have been done on young health populations and only for a period of weeks or a month.

What we do know is that using a sit stand desk does not help with obesity. There is only a slight increase in calories burned so you will not be able to give up your gym or sport if you get a sit-stand desk.

Dr April Chambers and colleagues have gathered data from 53 studies to examine the behavioural, physiological, work performance, postural, psychological and discomfort effects. Interestingly, the study found only minimal impacts on any of those areas, the strongest being changes in behaviour and discomfort. There was evidence for a small reduction in blood pressure and a decrease in low back pain.

And more research is needed also to guide dosage – how long should we sit for versus standing on a day to day basis? As a guide I usually instruct patients to sit for 30-40 minutes and stand for 20-30 minutes per hour but this will differ amongst people. And definitely do not try to stand for 8 hours a day from the get go – you will end up with sore feet and possibly knees and lower back.

You will also need someone to look at your ergonomics in both the sitting and standing positions to make sure the desk is correctly set for you in both positions.

The bottom line is whilst there is value in sit-stand desks from a health perspective they will not replace the need for movement. Lunchtime walks, postural stretching breaks and external sport and exercise are more important.

Adam Floyd