Why a standing desk might not be good for you?

A few years ago I wrote a blog post on the health issues associated with sitting for long periods of time at work. Since then there has been a significant increase in the number of sit stand and variable height desks in the workplace and instead of sitting all day many people now prefer to stand.

The evidence base has developed and there has been a growing realisation that standing all day also has negative health effects including increased risk of cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and other problems.

In a recent review it was suggested that we did not pick up on the more important point of the “too much sitting is bad for you” advice. The solution to prolonged sitting is not just to stand all day-rather it is to get up and move around. Current advice suggests we need to be on our feet for two to four hours while at work, not just standing but actually moving.

Part of the difficulty is that with modern technology it is not usually necessary to move from your desk at all-everything is close to hand or within easy reach. It takes determined action to plan more activity in to your work day but it is achievable. Standing up and walking where possible, retrieving items from the printer yourself, taking the stairs are all ways of building in more movement in to your work day. Fitness wearables do have a role here especially those that nudge you toward activity after periods of inactivity.

Just a word about the best sitting position as there is a commonly held belief that you “must not slouch” and that sitting upright on the chair is the best position for your back. Your chair is especially important and should have appropriate adjustability but the position which results in the least pressure on your lower discs is actually a semi recline position not sitting bolt upright. In this position more of your body weight is supported by your chair, rather than directly by your spine and discs. This is especially important for those with a history of low back pain.

Sit-stand desks are not without their benefits and in particular they encourage you to change positions regularly. But there is more to it than that-you must actually get up and move around.

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