What are the benefits and risks of a standing desk? Sitting is the new smoking, right? What does that even mean? That just by sitting I am filling my lungs with toxic smoke laden with tar and other corrosive products?
Excessive sitting impacts our body’s metabolic system: “Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression and a cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease.” ~ James Levine, MD, PhD
Are there Risks to Standing?
Before we all shout Hooray and demand pricey standing desks lets get some balanced feedback.
Four Risks of a Standing Desk
Standing All Day
Standing all day is no better than sitting all day, says Alan Hedge, a professor in the Department of Design and Environment Analysis at Cornell University.
Actually 75% of the worlds work force does stand all day– waiting tables, working in factories, selling retail items. Only a small portion of people actually sit for long periods in their work day. Standing all day can create lower back pain, varicose veins and other muscle aches. Our heart is forced to pump blood against gravity when we are standing.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re standing or sitting, if you’re doing it statically, your body wasn’t designed that way,” says Ken Tameling, an ergonomic seating expert at the furniture company Steelcase. “You need to move.”
Car travel is one of the worst for static positions of the body. Humans were built to move and change positions frequently. Staying in a static position all day is bound to cause fatigue, cramping and body aches.
Standing for the Wrong Tasks
There is a reason we sit and think. Delicate tasks that require out full concentration are difficult to complete while in the upright position. While it differs person to person, writing standing up can break concentration. Drawing, sowing, cutting can often require a seated position for the brain to focus more intently.
Standing to Burn Calories
Standing does burn about 20% more calories than sitting, but you also tire more easily. Is your work suffering by standing? Would a couple of 20 min. walks refresh your body and mind more than standing for hours?
Solutions to the Sitting vs Standing Dilemma
Both the positives and the risks lead to one conclusion, Movement! It is not so much that we are sitting or standing. It is that we are sedentary. Moving from one position to the next every 30-90 minutes is a workable solution.
If you hips hurt from sitting go for a walk, stretch, drink more water.
If you are stuck in a seated position all day, use your break wisely. Get outside and walk. Do seated stretches and posture changes frequently.
Sitting or standing, it is clear we humans are creature of movement. Neither position is healthy for long periods of time. What is you preference for thinking? working? or a meeting? Personally, I think all meetings should be conducted standing up or walking. Walking calms the brain while standing might keep that 2 P.M. meeting a little more focused.