The idea of standing desks is, in theory, a good one. Americans clock a whopping 13 hours a day sitting, so anything that gets us on our feet can’t really be bad. Or can it? Turns out swapping one extreme for another isn’t all that helpful. If you’re wondering whether you should take a stand, consider the following before you decide.
Sure, sitting all the time is bad for you – in addition to the 13 hours Americans spend at desks, on the couch and in the car, we spend 6 to 8 hours in bed. Add it all up and that’s between 19 and 21 (out of 24) sedentary hours every day. But standing all the time isn’t so great either. Extended standing can compress the spine and lead to lower back problems. Other problems include varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis and maybe even heart complications. When you are standing your heart has to work harder to pump blood from your lower extremities.
Immobility is the real problem
Sitting is harmful because extended immobility leads to slowing of the endocrine system. It doesn’t do your metabolism any favors either. As it happens, standing all day is harmful too. Huffington Post quotes Dr. Melvyn Hillsdon, associate professor of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter in England, as saying, “any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing.
So what is the bottom line?
Standing desks are actually great for boosting energy and focus. You may even burn a few extra calories during the day. They key is to use them in moderation (not all day), and with proper posture. Slouching at your standing desk may actually do more harm than good for your back, knees, calves and hips.
To use a standing desk
- Stand with knees loose (not locked) and feet slightly apart
- Invest in a gel or anti-fatigue mat to stand on for maximum comfort.
- Spring for comfortable shoes.
- Adjust your desk height so that you can look straight ahead at the monitor, rather than up or down. There should be no curve in your shoulders, wrists or neck.
- Shift your weight and adjust your position periodically.
Standing desks can be a good addition to your sedentary busting plan. Just be sure you have other tools in your arsenal. For example, make it a point to walk away from the desk at least once an hour. Maintain a regular exercise routine. And remember that it is okay to sit sometimes. The goal is just to avoid extremes. It is inactivity that is most harmful to your health. You may even consider wearing a fitness tracker. Aim for an increasing number of steps each week and never sit for more than an hour at a time.