Sit-Stand Desks Insufficient to Offset Health Risks from Prolonged Sitting
In the current digital age, most of us find ourselves confined to our desks for the majority of the day. A plethora of studies have highlighted the detrimental health implications of extended, uninterrupted periods of sitting. Consequently, many offices have integrated sit-stand desks, which offer the flexibility to alternate between sitting and standing at the simple touch of a button or flick of a lever. However, is standing truly better? Are there potential risks associated with excessive standing? This article delves into the research on the health risks linked with prolonged sitting and standing, and discusses whether investing in an electric height adjustable sit stand up desk is a worthy decision.
What are the potential risks of excessive sitting?
Individuals who spend most of their time sitting are at an increased risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer, which can ultimately lead to a reduced lifespan. Long periods of sitting can also result in musculoskeletal issues, particularly in the back and neck region. The health hazards associated with prolonged sitting are even more pronounced among individuals who engage in minimal physical activity or fail to meet the recommended levels of physical activity. While being physically active is crucial in mitigating the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, it cannot entirely negate the adverse effects of spending extensive hours sitting each day.
Can prolonged standing be harmful too?
Contrary to popular belief, extended periods of standing can also be detrimental to musculoskeletal health. Long periods of standing can result in symptoms such as muscle fatigue, leg swelling, varicose veins, and discomfort and pain in the lower back and lower extremities (hips, knees, ankles, and feet). Recent studies suggest limiting standing to approximately 40 minutes at a time, without a break, to reduce the risk of developing musculoskeletal discomfort due to prolonged standing. However, it’s important to note that not everyone will experience these symptoms, and some individuals may be more resilient to the effects of prolonged standing than others.
How can sit-stand desks help?
Sit-stand desks can effectively reduce sitting time during the workday among desk-based workers. Users of the best sit stand desks tend to alternate between sitting and standing postures, instead of standing for extended periods. However, the successful transition to working while standing up varies, and many users revert to their previous way of working sitting down in the long term. Thus, sit-stand desks alone are not sufficient to reduce desk-based workers’ sitting time. Employers and organizations must consider this when designing workplace policies, environments, and culture to ensure “sit less and move more” initiatives are effectively implemented and sustained.
How to choose the best standing desk?
If you already own a sit-stand desk, whether to keep or discard it will depend on various factors. Reflect on your usage patterns, comfort, desk ergonomics, health needs, cost, and space requirements. If standing or sitting for long periods while working leads to discomfort or fatigue, you may need to adjust your sit-stand routine or include additional supports. If you have an existing health condition or ongoing musculoskeletal symptoms, seek advice from a healthcare professional or ask your employer about arranging an assessment with an ergonomics specialist. This expert guidance can help you make an informed decision about your sit-stand desk.
Being physically active is paramount
Physical activity guidelines from governments and health-related agencies recommend adults limit the amount of time spent sitting. Interrupting and replacing sitting time with physical activity of any intensity has health benefits. The World Health Organization further recommends adults “aim to do more than the recommended levels of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity” to reduce the harmful health effects of high levels of sitting. In essence, simply standing is not enough to counteract the harms of prolonged sitting. We need to incorporate more physical activity into our daily routines.