Standing Desks Might Not Be Quite As Beneficial As You Think

Standing desks have become a bit of a trend in recent years, with many spouting off advice about how it has a whole host of health benefits to stand rather than sit when you're at work. But according to recent studies, it might not be quite as beneficial and life-changing as you might think.

A research paper from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews attempted to explore a number of different studies to analyse whether there really are that many benefits to standing desks over boring old low ones. But all of the papers point to the same conclusion: they're not all that great for you, your health or your posture.

Dr Jos Verbeek, a health researcher who's involved in the analysis, told NPR that standing desks are “very much, just fashionable and not proven good for your health”. Instead, if you want to make a big impact on your health you need to lead a healthier lifestyle and walk to work instead. Shocking, right?

This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK


Comments

    As I said on Tuesday, which is when this article was posted in the first place,
    Bullshit!
    I've been using mine for years and I can say unequivocally that it is well worth using.
    Before I started using it my lower back and legs hurt like a bastard, haven't had a problem since. When I first started using it I got fatigued because I was constantly moving and adjusting my stance, but now I can stand all day without an issue. These people should do a proper study with people who are dedicated to improving their health and not people who are simply stand-ins. I couldn't go back to sitting now if I tried.

      Good for you. I know for a fact that if I stand up all day it causes me lower back problems. There is no one size fits all answer to anything like this. What one metastudy of the research did conclude was that there was no overall correlation between the amount of time a person spends sitting and their health. What was important was that you got regular, beneficial exercise. I imagine that's why the suggestion is that you walk to work instead (which I do regularly).

      A meta-analysis is considered one of the highest quality studies one can do in medical research. Of course, it's only as good as the studies that they draw data from and their main conclusion is that there is not enough evidence to support the idea that standing desks are good for your health. which isn't to say that there's no benefit at all, just there's no evidence supporting it.

      It's good that you've found that a standing desk has helped you, but it does not follow then that it works for everyone or even most people. Otherwise if we accept individual testimonies as proof then, practices like homeopathy would have greater legitimacy.

        @SomeoneStoleMyName @kami @marioPS
        I still think the study is biased, I can't imagine that the few people who have commented in this and last weeks identical post, that a standing desk has helped them is just coincidental. I'll wager, sometime down the track there'll be a study that says that standing desk do help. Clearly, the study has downplayed the people who have very positive results using a standing desk. I have not advocated that this is has hundred percent positive results, just that people should give it a try before dismissing it out of hand.
        If you have a lower back that plays up when sitting or your legs ache, give it a try and see what happens. That's all I'm saying on this before it becomes a Troll fest.

        Last edited 26/03/16 10:01 am

          I used to stand - a lot.
          As a member of the Australian Defence Force, I had to stand at attention, on hot parade grounds, for extended periods called "parades".
          At every parade there was an ambulance, because it was guaranteed people would faint. Fainting while a rifle, with a bayonet fixed on the end, could be particularly nasty.

          I saw enough injuries to challenge the concept that standing for long periods MUST be good. I didn't faint - but I came close several times.

            Yeah, you're not the only one who's done time mate and you're not special. In my experience the guys who feinted were stressed by heat, not standing, in generall it only happened on very hot days with very long parades. It had nothing to do with a standing desk, which by the way you can walk away from any time, unlike a parade where you had to stand rock solid for extended periods of time. The two things are not even remotely similar.

    I had a standing desk 15yrs ago to alleviate back problems and I recently got one at work again for the same reason. I'm free of pain because I've got many more positions I can work in.
    I also got one at home and that has reduced my casual computer usage as I treat it more as a walk up console.

    @nodeity & @memeweaver: I'm glad these desks are good for you and your issues, but anecdotes =/= research or evidence.

    These people should do a proper study

    from the research paper linked to in the article:

    We found twenty studies with a total of 2174 participants from high income nations. Nine studies evaluated physical changes in the workplace, four evaluated changes in workplace policy, seven studies evaluated information and counselling interventions and one study evaluated both physical workplace changes and information and counselling components.

    My back hurts if I stand too much. But that's just me …

    How did this slip past the editor? It would help if there was any relationship between the title of this article and the Cochrane paper referenced. What was tested was the effect of a variety of interventions on "sitting time" as the primary outcome. In this regard, sit-stand desks were effective at reducing sitting time, but the studies were judged to be of poor quality. It is common for a systematic review like this to justify the funding of a larger, more robust study. It may also be correct that the evidence for longer term health benefits is of poor quality at present, but that is absolutely a different question to the one addressed in the systematic review. There is nothing to support the statement "they're not all that great for you". Turns out that if you want to get a sensationalist headline, you don't actually have to read or understand the papers you reference. Shocking, right?

      Thank you for clearing that up, it makes a lot more sense now. I hate click bate!

      I am always sceptical of scientific papers that promote one relatively inactive task against another similarly inactive one. Going for a walk is better for you than sitting or standing, but this fact doesn't sell standing desks.

      It is interesting that these papers also support the trend towards:
      * Buying more standing desks (benefiting sellers of such desks)
      * Supporting employers who are shifting to the cost saving ABW (Activity Based Workplace) which requires only 80% of the leased floor space compared to a partitioned workstation layout (another selling benefit for standing desks)
      * Supporting a trendy fad (for which decent research papers suggest employee benefits are equivocal, but help the employer make a 20% floor space saving)

      Personally I do use one at work as it helps my back, but I use it in both sitting and standing modes over the day. I find I need to sit to do analytical work. But again I am only a sample size of one!

      My big issue is these are a tool and symbol of ABW.

      The downside of ABW is as I now work without partitions my work is regularly interrupted with all sorts of conversations - o_0. And as everyone has a different desk everyday under ABW I waste time trying to find particular people for a "face to face". Alleged great ABW communication technology such as hangouts, email, SMS and mobile phone voice messages (no desks have landline phones anymore) don't work as well as claimed as not everyone monitors their tech every minute, but helps mostly for quick un-urgent queries only. Unfortunately, managing staff and team problem solving requires face to face collaboration which ABW does not facilitate.

      Despite the click bait headline, it is true, but not just for reasons in this article.

    As far as I can see, the study was about the effectiveness of standing desks in reducing sitting time. It wasn't about the health effects. I've stopped sitting more or less entirely as I find standing much better for working and feel quite energised by it. I had a sore foot after a week, but that's passed now.

    Gee I hope Mr Kidman doesn't spend his days standing like that, he'll end up with neck strain!

    I would have thought that standing desks would increase the risks of varicose veins, which are often seen in teachers, nurses and other professions where standing for long periods of time is the norm. Whilst I think that using them for an hour or two a day is probably not a bad thing, I worry that people who are using them all the time are putting themselves at risk of a painful condition later in life.

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