For those individuals who are in the process of, or have done so already, the standing desks are the new trend in office setups. There are many pro’s and there are some con’s s well. Space would be a big pro but space might be a con. Let’s delve into the musculoskeletal arguments for and against stand up desks/workstations.
Research shows little proof that there are substantial health benefits to using a sit-stand workstation. Prolonged standing can put added pressure on the circulatory system, can decrease fine motor skills and requires more energy than sitting; within 1 hour an individual begins to fatigue and slouch. Is this any different sitting?
Many people think that standing all day will simply be ‘better’ than sitting, allowing for a different position and not feeling so ‘stuck’ sitting. Have you ever stood all day? How does it make you feel?
However, experts say long periods of sitting can change a person’s metabolism and can increase the risk of obesity and heart disease, along with a bevy of other potential health concerns from prolonged sitting.
Both sitting and standing are static posture/positions. consistently static loads increase forces on muscles, and will contribute to fatigue. This also impedes the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles.
Sitting uses less energy than standing, but research is unconvincing with regards to standing to lose weight. (If only it was that easy.).
Sitting does help to stabilise the body and is best when performing fine motor tasks such as computer work and writing. A person standing for an hour or longer will not only grow weary, but likely begin to shift their weight and lean on the desk for ‘support’- which only promotes a poor working posture and position.
It is imperative that a person sitting moves and so as not to get stuck in a poor posture. Ergonomists for many years have recommended that sitting be broken up by task variation and moving throughout the day, preferably at least 3-5 minutes of every hour(I would personally think 10-15 minutes. Plus, Your mind can really only concentrate for 40-45 minutes before you start switching off).
Move anywhere. Just get up. Shake a leg. You’ll be surprised at how energising it actually is.
In addition to increased movement throughout the day, a good seated workstation will have a proper ergonomic set-up and a fully adjustable chair set for the user to assist in promoting and maintaining a neutral posture and position during seated tasks.
Workstation issues that need to be addressed are the ability to adjust the keyboard, mouse and monitor, if alternating from standing and sitting. Often the appropriate height/adjustment of those items will be different between sitting and standing; so simply adjusting the desk up and down will not account for all needed adjustments. As a result, there can be many additional ergonomic risk factors created when all of the equipment is not set-up for the user (differently) in both sitting and standing.
These simple steps are crucial in avoiding the negative health effects of office inactivity.
If you are regularly active, it does not matter if you sit or stand at work. Just make sure your space is set up to minimise stress on your posture.
The Bottom Line
Neither static standing nor static sitting for prolonged periods of time is recommended. Sit to do computer work with a proper ergonomic workstation set-up and an adjustable ‘task’ chair that meets your needs. Get up and move around at least 3-5 minutes every hour to increase circulation and feed your muscles the oxygen they need throughout the day. Research shows you don’t need to do vigorous exercise to receive the benefits of movement, simply walking around is sufficient. A standing workstation in most scenarios is not needed if the person is getting up and moving around throughout the day and seated at an ergonomically set-up workstation.
So the moral of the story. No matter if you sit or stand, you remain static. It is the movement which is important.