The great standing desk debate, who knew there was such a thing, has become a lightning rod in some circles. Some health-conscious office workers swear by them, still others quite literally want them killed off. As a New York City stand-up comic might ask, “Is this thing really worth me getting out of my chair for?” The answer to that question my good sir is the crux of this article. So using the latest research, let’s get to the core of this modern day office conundrum, To stand or not to stand.
According to the good folks at athletedesk.com, a standing desk is a desk of higher working height that office staff will tend to stand behind instead of sit. An ergonomic office chair is a chair designed to cradle the body, relieve pressure points and promote good posture for office workers sitting in them. Ergonomically-designed office furniture is a standard today, both items promote good health. So let’s compare and contrast this apple to this orange.
Let’s get to the essence of the claim that substantial weight loss is a benefit of the motorized standing desk. According to the medical researchers at the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, in a study of 74 healthy adults wearing oxygen masks to measure calorie consumption, the real difference between the sitting and standing subjects was about 8 calories/hour! These volunteers during that 3-hour period burned 80 calories sitting vs. 88 calories standing for a total of 24 calories, which is the equivalent of a carrot. This result is negligible in terms of significant weight loss, but every little bit helps.
Surely, the standing desk advocates get a win on this literal pain point. Studies show that prolonged, inactive sitting causes spinal compression when sitting in an “unnatural” posture. Standing desks, when used properly, do offer an easy solution for this compression problem because one’s entire lower body shares the load. However, according to the medical researchers at ergonomicshealth.com, the key takeaway is that both a standing desk and an ergonomic chair must be used properly to eliminate the real source of back pain–poor posture. Remember that one of the key selling features of ergonomic chairs is elimination of back pain. In fact, these chairs are designed to mimic the natural curvature of the lower back and spine.
Researchers at the University of Queensland were encouraged with the findings that just two extra hours of each day spent standing instead of sitting were associated with significantly lower percentage of blood fats and blood sugars, 11% and 2% respectively. In more general terms, more time standing led to increasing levels of the “good” type of cholesterol and decreasing levels of the “bad” type. Perhaps these findings would make our comic consider standing more.
On the other hand
Could prolonged standing be as bad as prolonged sitting? Perhaps not, but there are five complications associated with prolonged standing, according to international medical experts as published on Wikipedia:
1. Non-Neutral spine or Slouching
When good posture is not maintained for extended periods of standing spinal problems like Kyphosis may develop.
2. Varicose Veins
In simple terms, the valves in leg veins collapse due to prolonged standing, which causes the blood in the legs, ankles and feet to flood. This causes swelling in these areas.
3. Cardiovascular disorders
Scandinavian researchers found a link between the prolonged standing and the progression of carotid atherosclerosis in men. This illness in men can lead to health issues like coronary artery disease and aneurysms as well.
4. Joint compression
Standing puts significant pressure on joints of a worker’s hips, knees, ankles, and feet if kept immobile.
5. Muscle fatigue
According to OSHA, just five hours of constant standing cause muscle fatigue. Some 33% of all worker injuries and illness are attributable to this phenomenon.
Fortunately, comfortable shoes and anti-fatigue mats do provide some relief to those working under such conditions. Clearly, sitting down isn’t all bad, especially in moderation.
Blogger Michael Cho in his humorous piece, “Why I killed my standing desk,” documents his personal journey from standing desk fanatic to ergonomic chair believer. He discovers that after two weeks, his creative flow is hindered due to distracting leg fatigue. Despite the obvious health benefits that his new routine affords, he no longer enjoys his workplace and his work suffers.
Choose to move
At the end of his piece, Cho comes to the conclusion, the decision to sit or stand is really immaterial. Studies show that when it really comes down to the nitty gritty, office workers simply need to move their bodies more regularly no matter what.
Let’s close this discussion with the good three tips Michael leaves for his fellow office workers:
- Work with your feet up
- Do air squats
- Stretch your hips
So do you prefer a corner desk or a standing desk?