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 Mondays, 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.

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JULIJULINN 10/30/2020
ty Report
SHERYE 10/23/2020
Thanks Report
USMAWIFE 8/18/2020
thank you Report
Good article, thank you. I have a sit stand desk at work that I really enjoy. Wring from home, I make a concerted effort to walk every hour... Report
GRANDMOTHER20 5/28/2020
I have a standing desk at work and I love it. I can alter it to different heights to do some squats and leg raises while I work. Best invention ever since I hate sitting to begin with. Highly recommend one. Report
WHITEANGEL4 4/12/2020
This has been on my list Report
GMACAMI 1/22/2020
interesting article and comments Report
CATNAP6291 1/14/2020
thanks Report
JIACOLO 12/29/2019
I need to use my standing desk more Report
GETULLY 12/28/2019
Dearly Beloved got me a movable desk last christmas. It is great. I stand part of the time and sit part of the time. Report
NEPTUNE1939 12/28/2019
TY Report
Thanks Report
JIACOLO 12/17/2019
I sit way too much and do not use my standing desks at home or work enough
WHITEANGEL4 12/12/2019
Thanks for the information Report
I do more walking than sitting! Report
I was a teacher and rather than sit at my desk, I moved around the room a lot as did my students who were working on individual projects. Standing is definitely better for us than sitting. Report
Good advice, thanks! Report
thanks Report
I have one in my office, it's nice!!! Report
No thanks. Report
I got a standing desk for home as a xmas gift last year. I love mine! Report
Awesome...thanks! Report
Good info share...Thx! Report
thanks Report
good article Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
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
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
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.
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
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 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 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