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Studies show standing desks may be killing us - what to do instead

30 October 2018

We all know that sitting all day is unhealthy. From claims that “sitting is the new smoking” to ever-increasing obesity statistics, the latest trend is to shun the sedentary lifestyle by staying active in the workplace, and the easiest way to do that is to buy a standing desk…


Recent studies are beginning to shed doubt on that notion, suggesting that standing at work is just as bad, if not worse for you than sitting. According to a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, standing at work all day is “associated with a 2-fold risk of incident heart disease” over sitting, with one of the researchers noting an “incidence of heart disease among those respondents who stood a lot at work” comparable to smokers or obese people. A study published by the journal Ergonomics had a similar take on the matter, concluding that prolonged standing “may have health and productivity impacts” and may cause “lower limb swelling,” “muscle fatigue,” “deteriorated sustained attention reaction time,” and “decreased mental state.”

So if sitting is killing us, and standing is killing us, what isn’t killing us?!

With all this hubbub about the hidden dangers of the workplace, it might seem like there’s nothing you can do to ward off the imminent premature-death-by-just-being-alive. But fear not! There is a way to forestall this impending doom: stay active. Just because you use a standing desk, doesn’t mean you aren’t still sedentary. Taking regular active breaks, like walking around the office or simple active stretches, will do wonders for your health. Even little things like using a smaller cup or water bottle so you have to make more trips to the water cooler, or moving your desk to a location farther from the bathroom will naturally insert more activity into your day.

Many experts also recommend using a height-adjustable workstation and abiding by the 20-8-2 guideline: while at a desk, cycle between 20 minutes sitting with good posture, 8 minutes standing, and 2 minutes moving. That way, you aren’t sitting or standing for too long, minimizing the risks of both prolonged sitting and standing. Additionally, just the act of alternating between sitting and standing gives your body a “gravitational stimulus” to keep your muscles and bones strong.

There are plenty of consumer products to help you keep fresh and motivated in the workplace as well. To begin with, your smartphone most likely has a built-in step counter and preinstalled activity tracker, such as Apple Health or Samsung Health, which you can use to record how active you are every day. If you don’t keep your phone on you at all times, wearable activity trackers and smartwatches, like the FitBit or Apple Watch, can help track how much you move and estimate how many calories you burn.

If you have the extra scratch, it might be worth it to invest in upgrading your workspace to a more active one. The aforementioned height-adjustable desktop risers are a good place to start. If you’re looking for something a bit more intense, treadmill desks are gaining more and more traction (pun intended) - but, for those that lack the certain set of skills to be able to multitask in such a way, treadmill desks may actually be detrimental (just try eating and walking at the same time!). To help ease these issues, manufacturers are beginning to move towards desk bikes, which minimize the disruptive movement of walking and allow you to multitask with ease. All-in-one desk bikes, like the V9, are perfect for common areas in the workplace, letting you break up the monotony of desk work by offering an easy and convenient way to do a bit of active work or take an active break.