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December 24, 2021

Problems with Standing Desks

Standing desks have come with plenty of promises over the years. However, some downsides are starting to show up in research. We’re going to take you through the claims and discuss what’s at stake. 

The problems with standing desks are not, however, without solutions.

Research published in 2010 brought concern to just how unhealthy it is to sit at a desk all day. Along came a surge of interest in the standing alternative. There was a similar uptick of interest in 2020 when the office space was disrupted again by the Covid-19 virus.

The modern workspace continues to be reinvented. But these trends might have been a little misguided. Recent research suggests that standing all day at our desks also comes with significant risks.

Reported Problems with Standing-Only Desks

Discomfort and Fatigue

Most office workers have probably been sitting and working in chairs since they first entered school. Unless you work in a profession that requires standing and walking for significant lengths of time, your body is simply not used to it.

Transitioning to a standing desk can cause discomfort and fatigue in all areas of the body. It requires engaging muscle groups that are not utilized while sitting, especially in the butt and hips. A sit-stand desk can make the transition more gentle.

Foot Pain

Much like the point above, your feet might not be adapted to carrying your weight for long periods. This not only increases strain and discomfort but can increase the risk of injury.

Additionally, having your feet in only one position on a hard floor makes for poor circulation. This can lead to inflammation and tissue damage. 

One solution to this is investing in an anti-fatigue standing mat. Fortunately, UpDown Desk provides one of these for free with every purchase.

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Cardiovascular Issues

Standing for prolonged times might be detrimental to people with cardiovascular issues. For example, it could cause deep vein thrombosis to develop.

A common concern is that blood pooling in the lower limbs can cause varicose veins. These enlarged veins may be a sign of poor venous health. Most people think they are unsightly so try to steer away from having this issue.

It’s Not Exercise

A common misconception is that standing while working will engage the body in a bit of exercise and even lead to weight loss. The truth is that just standing is not much better than sitting in terms of how much exercise you’re getting each day.

Mental State and Productivity

A 2017 study published in Ergonomics found that standing could improve creative problem-solving. However, it was also associated with deteriorating sustained attention and reaction time.

The effect, however, seems to vary between people. Anecdotal evidence from reviewers suggests that productivity and creativity might decrease noticeably while standing for work. 

You might find that you want to alternate between standing and sitting for different types of work. An adjustable sit-stand desk is the best solution then.

Exacerbated Back or Neck Pain

Among the many touted benefits of standing desks is improved posture and relief from back pain. This might be the case for some people, but it’s not a guarantee.

Many people find that their back or neck pain increases. Part of the reason for this is that they have poor postural habits. Correcting posture can make the transition to standing desks easier.

What Is The Problem With Sitting, Anyway?

With all these issues coming to light about standing for work, many people have questioned whether it is not better to just go back to sitting. The truth is that both options have downsides.

Prolonged sitting has been associated with increased blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol. These are all risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Sitting for long periods also increases the risk of heart disease. This isn’t just about sitting at work. Sitting in front of the television at home for hours is possibly even worse.

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported an overall higher mortality rate associated with sedentary professions.

All this discussion might seem quite bleak. The truth is just that too much of anything is bad for you. So, let’s turn to what can be done to reduce these risks and actually improve health and productivity.

Solutions to the Problems of Standing Desks

Sit-Stand and Adjustable Desks

The key to overcoming the problems with standing desks is variety and versatility. Whether standing or sitting, research shows that prolonged periods of either is unhealthy.

A simple solution is to get the best of both worlds with a height adjustable desk. There are electronic or manual versions available. These give you have different optionshow to lower or raise your standing desk.

what are some of the problems with a standing desk

This way you can avoid putting too much strain on your body by switching it up. You might find that you want to stand while popping off creative ideas. Meanwhile, you want to sit when hitting the grind.

2011 study found that using a sit-stand desk could reduce back and neck pain by 54% and improve your mood. And that was with just an hour of standing per day (remember that it takes time to adjust).

Make sure to get a quality product so that you don’t end up with your standing desk stuck.

Posture and Position

Whether sitting or standing, there are a couple of posture points that need to be considered. Knowing how to lower your standing desk to the right level is key.

Elevate your computer monitor so that it is at your eye level. You want to avoid craning your neck down.

Have your desk at a height where your elbows are almost at 90-degree angles. You want your arms and wrists to lay almost flat across your work surface to your keyboard.

Whether comparing a standing desk to an ergonomic chair,or a standing desk against an exercise ball, you want to try and replicate these posture tips. It doesn’t matter if you’re standing or sitting.

Periodic Movement

The human body shouldn’t be in one place all day. Your feet and legs have pumps that only circulate your blood properly when they’re moving.

Set an alarm or use a productivity timer to prompt you to take a walk at regular intervals. It’s recommended to do this about every 30 minutes. Additionally, if you need to talk to a colleague, rather walk over and speak to them than send them an email.

People who take regular walking breaks have a 33% lower chance of premature death.

Not only does it offset the health risks of sedentary and static work practices, but it’s also great for mental health and clarity. People who take regular walking breaks have less fatigue and feel more creative.

Practices and Products for Your Feet

Formal footwear on hard floors can hurt your feet. Wear comfortable shoes that support your feet: something athletic is ideal.

Additionally, try to shift your standing position regularly. You can alternate which foot you primarily put pressure on. Similarly, avoid locking your knees into a rigid upright position. Allow yourself to soften your knees and move around a bit.

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You could also invest in a gel or anti-fatigue mat. These provide cushioning that reduces the strain and pressure on your joints, from your ankles to your hips.

If you’re wondering about balance boards vs mats for standing desks: boards require a little more advanced balancing skill.

Conclusion

Standing desks are often touted as the solution to sedentary workplace practices. 10 years on, we can see that they are not a panacea. Instead, the fact is that they just have their own set of downsides.

The solution is not to stand or to go back to sitting. The solution is variety. Sit-stand desks are a perfect way forward for the modern office space.

Couple this with a bit of movement in your work lifestyle and you can massively offset health risks and actually improve your physical and mental health.

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