Stand Up Desks – Good or Bad?

prosconsWe often see people in the clinic with headaches, neck and back pain from sitting slumped at their work desks all day. The perils of sitting for hours on end can cause many health issues not just with your muscles and joints but it can also increase your risk of obesity / heart disease. So then you think… ‘these stand up desks are pretty popular maybe I should just stand at work instead!’ It’s quite the brilliant idea but even standing at work comes with its own set of risks.

The Pros of Standing on the Job

  • People have reported that standing on the job has made them more productive and energized – you burn more calories standing at your desk vs sitting at your desk.
  • It’s easier to engage and disengage from what you’re doing and you don’t have to make the conscious effort to get up from your desk and move as you tend to naturally move while standing anyway.
  • People who suffer from back pain notice a reduction in pain with standing at their desk as it allows them to move more and this reduces the flexed position of the lumbar spine as well as lubricates the joints with the added movement.

The Cons of Standing on the Job

  • If your posture is crap while you’re standing then you may as well sit – shifting your weight to one leg / sticking your hip out and swayed back posture are the two most common ‘lazy’ ways to stand
  • Foot and leg pain with adjusting to a standing desk – any change takes time and going from 8 hours of sitting to 8 hours of standing is a pretty big change. It also means that you can’t hide your comfy ugg boots under the desk and it would be more advisable to wear the ugly granny shoes that have the good arch support instead of the awesome new high heels from Peep Toe.
  • There have been reports that standing for extended periods increases your risk of varicose veins.

So how do you find the balance?

An adjustable standing desk is your best bet! Something that can allow you to stand or sit at work. While you’re standing it’s advisable to make sure you wear comfortable and supportive shoes and invest in a gel mat to stand on. You could also get standing desk chair for the moments you do want to sit. Be wary of how you do stand or sit – awareness is the key!

The benefits for standing at your desk far outway sitting for hours on end however an adjustable standing desk is the way to go – the more options the better. In saying that – making sure you are aware of your posture whether you are sitting or standing is what’s going to help your body in the long term.

Deborah Chen, Physiotherapist