Are standing desks overrated?
Ask some people, and they’ll swear absolutely not. They’ll tell you that standing desks are the way forward, the only real way to ensure long-term health and well-being while working all day.
Besides, they’re also very much the “in” thing right now, so if you’re looking for the coolest contemporary office furniture, a modern standing desk is a must.
Then again, there are others who will tell you that yes, of course, standing desks are overrated. That the whole “sitting is the new smoking” line that gets bandied about isn’t as factual as some would have you suggest and that honestly, standing at a desk all day is uncomfortable and every bit as damaging as sitting down.
Even the New York Times has put their two cents in, arguing that they’re no substitute for good old fashioned exercise, while CNN takes the stand that they can actually be helpful.
So, which is it?
Are they what they’re biggest fans claim them to be? Or are they just another office fad we can all easily ignore?
Below, we’ve weighed up the pros and cons of standing desks to finally determine an answer once and for all.
The Pros and Cons of Standing Desks
Standing Desks Keep You Moving
While it may be true that sitting down all day isn’t good for us, it’s often not the sitting itself that causes most of the problems.
Issues like back and neck pain are usually caused by staying in the same position for far too long, which is where a good standing desk can come in handy.
There’s something about standing up that naturally encourages us to move around and add variations to the way we position our bodies. You might even be more inclined to do some exercises while standing at your desk and in between emails.
This alone is the biggest benefit to standing desks – simply encouraging us to move more helps reduce the risk of all those nasty health problems that sitting has long been blamed for.
Still, it has to be said that standing isn’t the only way to do it. There are some innovative alternative and active sitting office chairs that are also designed to encourage movement while putting in the hours at your desk.
Eliminate the Afternoon Slump
Ask any proponent of the standing desk to tell you why they’re so good and it won’t be long before they point to a mountain of evidence which suggests that post-meal blood sugar levels return to normal much sooner when a person spends more of their time standing than sitting.
This can be very good news if you’re looking for a way to beat the dreaded afternoon slump and retain more energy throughout the day.
Minimal Calorie Burn
Whether you’re looking at buying a complete setup like the best-selling AIZ Mobile Standing Desk or simply using a good standing desk converter, you may be motivated by all the rumors you’ve heard that using a standing desk can help you lose weight.
In fairness, there is some truth to those rumors, but much.
In a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, studied how many calories their test subjects burned while doing various tasks such as watching tv, sitting typing at a desk, standing at a desk, and walking.
All in all, they found that subjects burned 80 calories an hour while sitting and 88 calories while standing. However, those same subjects burned 210 calories per hour walking.
In other words, yes, there is some weight-related benefit to using a standing desk, and if you’re thinking of buying one as part of an overall healthy lifestyle plan they can be a great addition, but if you’re thinking of buying one so that you don’t have to go to the gym, you may be disappointed.
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Improved Core Strength
We’ve already noted that sitting down for long periods can cause back pain, especially if you’re sitting in a less than optimum position. Standing natural promotes better posture, and while that can certainly alleviate back pain, that’s not the only benefit.
Good posture can also help improve your core strength. OK, so a few hours at a standing desk may not give you rock hard abs, but it’s certainly going to strengthen and tighten everything around your core area the more you do it, and that in itself can provide long-term health benefits.
Standing All Day Can Be Tiring
If you’re putting in a full day at the office then there’s no denying that it can be tiring work. Standing upright on a hardwood floor for 7-8 hours a day can produce muscle fatigue, soreness, and general tiredness.
This is why we highly recommend investing in an anti-fatigue mat for your standing desk,
Standing All Day Can Damage the Joints
Using a standing desk may be great for alleviating back pain, but it can put just as much pressure on your knees and ankles.
Even if you were relatively healthy beforehand, you’ll likely find that a full day at a standing desk leaves your joints feeling a little sore.
If you already suffer in those parts of the body, it might be wise to consider another option like a sit-stand desk such as this popular model from FitDesk. That way, you get the best of both worlds – a little pressure off your back, but the opportunity to sit down once those knees start feeling it.
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Varicose Veins Can Form if You Stand Still For Too Long
Again, it’s important to remember that the biggest advantage of standing desks isn’t the actual standing part, it’s that they encourage you to move around more. If you buy a standing desk but then simply remain in the same position for hours at a time, there’s a greater risk of blood pooling around the ankle and calf areas, increasing the likelihood of varicose veins.
One option to combat this might be to use a balance board to keep you moving, though they can be tricky to get used to.
Say Goodbye to Your Favorite Footwear
Even if you love your standing desk, it’s hard to deny that you’re going to end up with sore feet after a long day. This is especially true if you’re wearing tough, professional shoes, and you can forget all about ever wearing high heels to the office ever again.
The best way to combat this might be to bring a pair of sneakers or your favorite comfy shoes to the office to have with you while you’re working at your desk. Either that, or have someone waiting to give you a good foot massage when you get home.
Are Standing Desks Overrated? Our Verdict
So, are standing desks overrated? Perhaps a little.
If you believe a standing desk is going to be the answer to all of your prayers, helping you to lose weight and remain pain-free throughout your working day with minimum effort on your part, then you’re only going to be disappointed.
Sure, there may be some minimal calorie burning going on, and sure, they may do great things for your back pain, but they can also cause plenty of discomfort in the feet, ankles, calves, and knees.
Besides, it isn’t actually sitting down that’s the enemy here, it’s lack of movement. Whether you chose to sit, stand, or opt for a combination of both, the best possible way to maintain positive health and wellbeing is to keep moving.
Change positions, take breaks, walk around, and it will do you far more good than either sitting or standing all day ever could.
Ready for the next step? Have a look at our guide to the different types of standing desks or learn about the differences between pneumatic standing desks and electric height adjustable desks.