Standing desks: good or bad idea?

Research has shown that sitting at your desk all day is bad for your health, with some medical researchers comparing it to smoking.

A report published in 2014 even found that prolonged time spent in sedentary states (such as sitting at work or watching TV) is associated with increased risks of certain types of cancer.

The revelation that sitting is bad for you – which surfaced a few years ago – has led to a big spike in sit-stand desks (SSDs) in the workplace.

These work stations are simple enough in concept: you can sit at your desk, as normal, and then lift the entire desktop up so you can stand.

Other designs disregard any seating features at all, and some are quirky and novel.

Researchers say that some of these solutions can help counter-act many of the health problems associated with sitting for long periods of time, and could even reduce sedentary time (periods of no activity) by as much as 8 hours a week.

One study, which assessed 28 sedentary office workers using SSDs for 4 weeks, found that sedentary time was reduced by 5 minutes per working hour, while boosting overall activity levels.

“The intervention also increased overall sense of well-being, energy, decreased fatigue, had no impact on productivity, and reduced appetite and dietary intake,” the researchers found.

“The workstations were popular with the participants.”

However, not everyone is convinced.

According to Alan Hedge​, a professor in the Department of Design and Environment Analysis at Cornell University, sitting isn’t the problem – and offers the view that standing for long periods of time is just as bad as sitting all day.

“If what you’re doing is replacing sitting with standing, you’re not actually doing your body any favors – in fact, you’re introducing a whole variety of new risk factors,” he said.

Notably, standing for extended periods of time can lead to back problems and fatigue or a lack of concentration for certain tasks, he said.

The bigger problem, some experts note, is that it’s the “not moving” bit that’s doing us harm. In short: it doesn’t matter if you’re standing or sitting, if you’re not moving, the effect is the same.

Google and Facebook are among some of the biggest businesses to embrace the standing-desk lifestyle, and the trend has led to some truly ingenious SSD design.

Here are some standing desks that range from the practical to the ludicrous.

Giant cage and bags of sawdust sold separately
sawdust sold separately
The cardboard standing desk is perfect for the employee who likes their work space to be 100% recyclable.
The cardboard standing desk is perfect for the employee who likes their work space to be 100% recyclable.
While elegant in design, you will still swear at it when you inevitable stub your toe on the corners.
While elegant in design, you will still swear at it when you inevitably stub your toe on the corners.
When employees can't decide on whether to sit or stand, this design meets them half way.
When employees can’t decide on whether to sit or stand, this design meets them half way.
For the standing-desk fan that's always ready to go.
For the standing-desk fan that’s always ready to go mountain biking on a whim.
With a few accessories, employees can work on their core while working on that report.
With a few accessories, employees can work on their core while working on that report.
Captain Morgan not included.
Captain Morgan not included.
Take your calls with a very different kind of walkie-talkie.
Take your calls with a very different kind of walkie-talkie.
For the CEO that likes to keep active.
For the active CEO
Mixing work and gym in a more practical way
Mixing work and gym in a more practical way
This standing desk can adjust height to fit any employee.
This standing desk can adjust height to fit any employee.

You can see more standing-desk designs on Pinterest.

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Standing desks: good or bad idea?