The Truth About Standing Desks You Need to Know
The truth about standing desks you need to know…
We all know that sitting is bad for us. Heck, most of us feel it when we do sit for too long.
We feel our low back start to throb when seated on the plane. Or, our hip pain flare up when in the car for a long period of time. Or, the ache in our knees when seated at an event and we simply can’t stretch out our legs.
Some of these activities we can control while others, like sitting in front of a computer all day, we can’t. If you are one the many Canadians who has to work for a living, then you cannot not sit for your job.
Prolonged sitting has been linked to heart disease, a shorter lifespan, diabetes and cancer.
How to die quicker
One study compared adults who spent less than two hours a day in front of the TV or other screen-based activity, with those who logged more than four hours a day.
Those with the greater screen time/sit time had a nearly 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause, and about a 125 percent increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease – such as chest pain (angina) or heart attack.
What’s worse, is now they have found that spending a few hours a week at the gym or otherwise engaging in other moderate to vigorous activities does not seem to offset the damages that sitting does.
What does then?
Standing desks to the rescue?
For the past few years standing desks have been touted as the saviour to sitting.
These desks, which can be adjusted so you can work in either a sit or stand position, have become extremely popular (just Google “buy sit-stand desk” and you will get over 2 million hits).
But, do they really work? Does standing in one place do anything for your health?
Recently researchers from a Cochrane work group took a look at twenty different studies with a total of 2174 participants.
Their aim was to see if workplace interventions and changes actually helped, and if the participants sat less because of these interventions.
The variety of studies that were evaluated used different forms of interventions. Some used information and counselling to encourage people to move more through the day. Others looked at software, some at mindfulness training and almost half of all the studies assessed looked at the effects of active workstations (i.e. standing desks).
The truth about standing desks
What did they find? A big fat nothing.
They found that none of the interventions had any real impact on our sit time, and that sit-stand desks had “very low quality of evidence” that it reduced sitting at work in the short term (to date there are no long term studies).
The studies also revealed that sit-stand desks did not have any considerable effects on work performance, musculoskeletal symptoms (such as low back pain), or sick leave.
There were too few participants and too many poorly designed studies that no real data could be gleaned from them.
Some experts also argue that simply standing in one place is really no difference than sitting in one place.
There is no evidence that standing for four hours, as opposed to sitting, will provide you with health benefits.
In fact, both prolonged sitting AND standing are both shown to heighten your risk of enlarged veins (hello varicose veins).
What to really do
So, what do you do? How can you offset the ill-effects sitting has on the body?
Right now science does not have an exact answer for us. As indicated in the Cochrane study, more research, with a much larger sample group, for longer periods of time are needed.
In the meantime, we must move our bodies more. We have become a society of sitters. Whether it’s in the car, at a desk, or in front of the TV.
I think once we remember that our bodies are the machines that should be powering us through life, we will take the necessary steps (literally and metaphorically) to solve our sitting problem.
Until then, give me ten squats every time your butt hits a chair.