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Your Standing Desk Is No Healthier Than a Regular Old Sitting Desk, Study Finds


Bad news, standing-desk fans: according to a study from Exeter University and University College London, you’re getting sore feet for nothing. After following 5,000 people over the course of 16 years, researchers determined that standing desks are no better for your health than standard ones. Being still, they contend, whether standing or sitting, is bad for your health.

standing desk 

(Photo Credit: juhansonin/Flickr)

“Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing,” Melvyn Hillsdon of Exeter’s sport and health sciences department told The Guardian. “The results cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand work stations, which employers are increasingly providing to promote healthy working environments.”

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The study found that sitting, whether at home or at work, did not correlate with an increased risk of dying sooner.

Down With Standing Desks

Even people who love the standing desk admit that it’s not without its problems. A few years ago, Sydney Trent of The Washington Post wrote about her experiences with her standing desk, which included leg pain, foot numbness, and fatigue. Her doctor’s diagnosis?

“I was standing too much at work,” she said. “Those uncomfortable sensations were probably a result of hyperextending my knee, which could put too much pressure on the fibular nerve, a branch of the sciatic nerve, which starts behind the knee and runs alongside the fibula, or calf bone. Ironically, this can also occur when you cross your legs a lot while sitting.”

Experts caution that using standing desks incorrectly – standing all day without a break, using poor posture or bad ergonomics, etc. – can also diminish benefits.

“If what you’re doing is replacing sitting with standing, you’re not actually doing your body any favors,” says Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environment Analysis at Cornell University, in U.S. News. “In fact, you’re introducing a whole variety of new risk factors,” including lower back problems and cardiovascular problems, due to the heart working against gravity.

Up With … Sitting?

The bad news, of course, is that sitting is still pretty much universally acknowledged to be terrible for you. The best advice is to move as much as you can (or as much as your boss and your job responsibilities will let you). If you can’t switch to a treadmill or bike desk, or take your meetings while walking, breaking up your day with activity is your best bet.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you love your standing desk anyway? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Ralph ParisiikomradTrevor Walper Recent comment authors
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I’m a lot more active when standing at my desk as well. Not only because I have a treadmill, but I am more likely to leave my desk to go talk to someone, take a walk, etc. This is because people tend to resist change. So sitting leads to more sitting, standing to more standing , walking to more walking, etc. If I’m sitting, my brain will resist any suggestion of getting up and walking. If I’m standing, walking isnt’… Read more »

Ralph Parisi
Ralph Parisi

It’s interesting that there are very few articles on sitting at your desk while it is in the standing position using a chair that will go up higher. There are many such desk chairs available. It is not a matter of sitting vs standing. You do both. Sit for a while, stand for awhile. This way you are not staying in the same position all day. There is no need for the desk to move up and down. You just… Read more »

Trevor Walper
Trevor Walper

I work in occupational health and safety and was recently at an event discussing chronic pain with some professional researchers in thd field. One of the speakers was a head of some reasearch at iChord (a back pain research lab). One of the specialties he was working in was siadica (pain caused by spine pinching nerves) and he explicitly said that jobs that have excessive sitting actually are quite bad for helping foster the condition and the ideal conditions would… Read more »

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