Spark It or Scrap It: Do Standing Desks Improve Your Health?

By , Alicia Capetillo, Staff Writer
In his book "Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It," health expert and inventor of the treadmill desk Dr. James Levine calls out the dangers of sitting in no uncertain terms, writing, "We all have a capacity of happiness. Sitting somehow suppresses it. Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death." Article after study after article agree that the average American sits too much and needs to incorporate more movement into their day-to-day tasks. But what's a nine-to-fiver supposed to do?

After years of the stability ball swearing it would save our posture, there's a new kid in town vying for the attention of every cubicle: the active or standing desk. The standing desk seemingly offers the promise of a better tomorrow, free from the lackluster monotony of sitting for eight hours a day and the diseases that are so often linked to it, including heart disease and diabetes. But does the standing desk stand up to the test?

Yes and no. Dr. Matt Tanneberg, a sports chiropractor and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Phoenix, Arizona, says active desks have been shown to decrease the chance of obesity due to its metabolism-boosting effects that come from standing and being more inclined to move. Those with lower back pain should also take note of the posture benefits tied to standing desks. "With standing, you are also putting less pressure on your lumbar discs as opposed to sitting," he said. "One of the most stressful position for discs in your low back is sitting. Standing and moving around should help to alleviate the low back pain caused by pressure on your lumbar discs."

Plus, a recent study featured in Preventive Medicine found that, in addition to potential physical benefits, standing desks were also linked to improved mood among participants who used the desks for a seven-week time period. Jury's still out on whether it helps with a case of the Monday's, though.

Of course, it's not all sunshine and happy coworkers. Dr. Tanneberg cautions against too much standing, which can be just as strenuous as sitting all day. "If you get tired and hunch in front of your computer screen while standing, it is just as hard on your body as if you are sitting," he said. "Standing puts excess pressure on your feet, which can lead to soreness, muscle spasm [and] even issues usually associated with runners like plantar fasciitis."

The winning combination seems to be healthy dose of both standing and sitting throughout the day. "I tell my patients to set an alarm on their phone for every 20 minutes. When the alarm goes off, get up, stretch out, get a drink of water, go to the bathroom, do something else to move around," Dr. Tanneberg said. "By switching back and forth, you are staying active and not stressing your body too much one way or the other." Plus, as with any standing, be conscious of your posture to avoid discomfort or joint pains.

If you're interested in trying a standing desk, Dr. Tanneberg recommends easing yourself into a stand/sit workday by starting with the 20-minute alarm system or focusing on your sitting posture by employing some kind of lumbar support, such as a small pillow. If neither option alleviates your pain, try propping up your computer to stand a few hours each day before looking to invest in a more advanced option.

Would you try a standing desk? How do you incorporate movement into your work day?   

Join us each month as we sift through the so-called life hacks and miracle cures to get to the bottom of the latest buzzworthy trend. Get the facts and decide for yourself if you should Spark It or Scrap It

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints

Comments

FISHGUT3 3/25/2019
thanks Report
CATNAP629 3/16/2019
good article Report
KHALIA2 3/8/2019
Great article! Thanks! Report
CHERYLHURT 8/14/2018
Thanks Report
CLJONES2738
I received a standup desk (Varidesk) several weeks ago and have found that my lower back has stopped hurting and I am in a much better mood. I don't like putting it up and down so I stand most of the time and take a sit break whenever I feel like I need to. Report
We moved to a new office space in 2015, and all of us were given desks that raise or lower with the touch of a button, allowing us to sit or stand as we prefer. I typically switch between the two, but have felt guilty for not standing all or most of the time -- glad to hear that was really the best way to go anyway! I will now just aim to stand up more frequently! Report
I use a stand up deal and this article made me think. Thanks Report
I work in a small office. We need new furniture, but I don't think standing desks are within our budget, unfortunately. Report
My son has a desk that with the flip of a switch, he can sit or stand at his desk. The desk moves up or down to the height he wants. Report
Love, Love, LOVE my standing desk. Since losing 60 lbs, I have had trouble with my right hip - Chiropractor says it's from so many years of being overweight, body is catching up. Standing alleviates the pain! Even if I stand 5 our of the 8 hours a day, I'm saving myself from an early grave Report
I feel very fortunate, because I have a nice mix. There's no desk at my job. But there's a counter, which is a great height. No desk top computer either. We use a handheld tablet. Most of the day is standing, bending down & lots of walking. There is some sitting too. Report
LYNNE66NC
I work from home and cannot afford a stand up desk. So I bought an adjustable arm for my monitor and my husband made a "box" that can accommodate my keyboard and mouse. He measured my arm height by having me stand at my desk with my arms bent at a comfortable position. When I want to stand up and work I raise my monitor and place my keyboard and mouse on the box. When I want to sit I put everything back down on the desk and set the box under my desk until I'm ready to stand again. Report
I just bought one for work, it can be raised and lowered giving me good options. Report
I would absolutely love a stand up desk. I saw it on TV and it seems just right for me. I can't sit still and it just kills me to sit too long! A standing desk would be awesome! Report
RHMERCEDES
I got a standing desk in my classroom a few months ago and I love it. I go back and forth between sitting and standing depending on the nature of the task and how I am feeling. I love the flexibility and the functionality.
Report
I work in a busy emergency room, and though I am the secretary, the fax and printer are not right by my desk. I get up often to check it, walk reports to my docs, and even assisting with cleaning the rooms between patients. I don't have much time to sit! Report
I used to have to stand for my job, it is awful. Left with long term effects to live with. Report
PROPMAN1
I sit and then stand. I have to move in order to get to the copier, get water, etc. This makes it so that i can get a break from sitting often. The most problemmatic times are when there's a meeting...no way to move around. Doubt my workplace will see standing desks anytime soon. :( Report
I've been using a pomodoro timer to work for 25 minutes, then move for 5 throughout the day and it seems to be paying off. Report
Not for me. I had to stand at my former job, and it literally was excruciating for me. I do better if I can move around, and sit a while, then move again. Standing in one spot kills my back and legs. The standing desks were never at the right height for my neck, either. Maybe it would have been better if it could have been adjusted to my needs, but all the desks were shared by others, so that would not have been possible unless they were designed to be changed quickly and easily. Report
I have a hydraulic desk that I really like. I am tall, so being able to adjust the keyboard level separately is a big bonus. Report
I love my standing desk. I can raise or lower my working surface so I can both sit and stand during the day. I find that task that require a lot of typing I am better sitting, but things that are a lot of reading or looking at thing I am better standing. I would never go back to a standard sit only desk. Report
I tried a standing desk, even though I knew prolonged standing aggravated the arthritis in my lower back. A treadmill desk might work. I can walk all day as long as I don't stop and stand for a long time. So a standing desk is not for me. Report
Absolutely! Sitting is one of the most painful things for my back (bulging disc) so I converted my desk to a standing one a few years ago. It's important that I still focus on good posture, doing stretches, and occasionally taking a few minutes sitting through out the day, but if done right, this is extremely valuable to me! I just set my monitor on top of a few books and things to boost it up on a shelf till it was the appropriate height. Works great! Report
I have a stand up desk and love it. I try to stand at least half my day. Report
I have an ErgoTron adjustable desk. I really do like it. I stand unless I have a conference call that I need to take written notes during (I just can't do my notes on the computer...it has to be by hand for me!). The ErgoTron I use with a fatigue free mat. Mainly I went to this just to get more time on my feet and less sitting during the day. I did not have back pain to begin with, and I do not now, so I can't speak to that. Report
I have a desk job and have discovered that if I set a timer at 2 hour intervals and get up and take a quick walk around the building it really helps. Report
I have to agree with NDCarol. I'm a nurse, but no longer work the floors. Being on your feet all day can cause as many problems as sitting. Varicose veins aren't fun and a major cause is being on your feet for long periods.

If you're sitting, set a timer like the article says and move around a bit. Do the QuickFire Challenge here-an exercise a day to be done in short sets throughout the day. Just move. Report
SYLSUBONE
When I worked part time I used a sit-down desk, but after switching to full time hours and sitting down all day for several years, I switched to a standup workstation. I have had it for about 3 years now I and I really like it. It is hard to stay still standing, though, so often I can do toe raises or ankle circles or other stretches periodically throughout the day. I also have an opportunity to walk around alot at work, so it is a good combination. Several tasks throughout the day give me a chance to sit for brief periods of time as well. I think this makes for a good combination Report
I had my office purchase a standing desk trying to eliminate my upper neck and back/shoulder pain. It did. However my low back hurts when I stand too long. I have to switch back and forth. I've found the secret to desk pain is to have strong back and core muscles. When I was in shape and strong was the only time I've not had problems. Report
Having stood for 14 years in my job as a nurse, I'd have to say that you'd need to maintain good posture and move around a lot. I don't see myself doing it. Report
JULES405
I was diagnosed with a protruding L5/S1 disc two years ago. Sitting at my desk at office was excruciating! I raised everything up to the correct ergo approvals, received an ergo mat to stand on, and a stool (vs a chair) so mid afternoons I could lean against. I also have a footstool riser that I use. I LOVE being able to stand and work! Many co-workers have been envious and also have taken the plunge to raise their stations. I'm more productive and experience less pain in my back! Report
I've created my own standing desk over my treadmill to encourage slow walking while working. I found that I didn't like standing in one place for very long. I DID purchase some cheaper flexible standing desk options from (I can't remember where) and I keep those around the house near TVs, so I can do paperwork at home while standing. It definitely can keep you more productive...IF YOU USE THEM. By the way, I like BBEAGAN's suggestion for a hospital bed table. Smart thinking! Report
TOMEROB
I use a standing desk at work. If you stand for a long time, it is helpful and much more comfortable to stand on an anti-fatigue pad that acts as a cushion. Knee high support stockings also help to keep your legs from getting tired. Report
APRIL_V_2
I made myself a homemade standing desk and love it. I work from home and previously found myself sitting way too much. I love my new standing desk! Now I stand 50-75% of the day. It's not a miracle cure, it hasn't made me miraculously skinny or anything like that, but I feel better knowing I'm not contributing to the secretary spread if you know what I mean. :-) Report
APRIL_V_2
I made myself a homemade standing desk and love it. I work from home and previously found myself sitting way too much. I love my new standing desk! Now I stand 50-75% of the day. It's not a miracle cure, it hasn't made me miraculously skinny or anything like that, but I feel better knowing I'm not contributing to the secretary spread if you know what I mean. :-) Report
APRIL_V_2
I made myself a homemade standing desk and love it. I work from home and previously found myself sitting way too much. I love my new standing desk! Now I stand 50-75% of the day. It's not a miracle cure, it hasn't made me miraculously skinny or anything like that, but I feel better knowing I'm not contributing to the secretary spread if you know what I mean. :-) Report
I requested an adjustable standing/sit desk at work but no luck. My supervisor told me she didn't know anyone who has one to actually use very much so it wasn't worth her time and the company's money to purchase one.
At home when I scrapbook, I use a counter height table. I also have a chair but seldom use it. Report
I have an adjustable standing desk. So, I spend about half of my day standing. It has been a great boost to my back and hips! I used to feel "creaky" by lunchtime. No more. I am thrilled with the versatility and activity related to the stand up desk. I rarely "roll" anywhere anymore ( desk to filing cabinet...etc). But you have to use it to get the benefit. Many of my coworkers also got the adjustable desk...but they remain seated all day. If you're not motivated, an adjustable desk won't help. Report
Where I work standing desk are becoming quite popular. After seeing a number of coworkers with them I decided to get one also and have been using mine for about three months. I try to spend at least have my day standing and also do stretches while standing. Report
I've been standing to work for a little over a year out of necessity due to bulging discs in my lumbar. If I sit too long, the sciatica kicks in. It's no longer excruciating, post-epidural injections, but it still flares if I sit too long/slouch.
I didn't purchase a standing desk; my laptop's on a riser I swiped from the IT supply closet, my keyboard's on an old double briefcase that was about to be tossed out, and my mouse is on a cardboard box. I did have to have the facilities guys come and raise my monitor arm so that I can adjust it to eye level, and I purchased a squishy chef's mat to help with the pressure on my joints.
When I need to sit, which I do periodically throughout the day, the briefcase and the box go on the floor, and I can lower the screen.
Necessity something something invention, right?
Report
I was the trend-setter in my department and requested a standing desk a couple years ago. Budget restraints did not allow me to get one of the full desk options, but my adjustable standing desk that sits directly on my regular desk does enough for me to make a huge difference. No more hip pain. Now four of my coworkers are using a standing desk for at least a part of their day. Report
I bought a hospital bed table, one of the tables they slide over your bed that raises and lowers with a little handle on the side. Got it used for $25. My computer and keyboard are on that, so I can raise it to standing (or any height) easily. I love that option! And it was affordable! Report
I've had a standing desk for a bit over a year -- love it. I try to split my day between standing and sitting (on a ball with a base.) Several co-workers have bought standing desks after test-driving mine. Report