The Great Debate: Standing vs. Sitting

By Roger Murray | August 4th, 2016

The health effects related to sitting at your desk all day is widely publicized, from an increase in the risk of obesity, heart disease, disability, and/or shorter life expectancy.  Sitting has become the new smoking.  So the obvious answer to living a healthy long life is simple, right?  Just stand up; however, science seems to debunk the growing and popular trend of standing desks, or even the latest treadmill workstations. 

Studies: According to a publication by researchers in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, of the more than twenty studies conducted, there were conflicting results.  The contradictions in each finding often were a result of small sample sizes or poorly designed experiments where most were not randomized controlled trials, or the subjects were not studied for a significant amount of time to evaluate the effects.

Results:  At best, the results were inconclusive with too many uncontrolled elements to determine definitive benefits to standing over sitting at a desk.  In fact, a study published in 2005 revealed prolonged standing at work was associated with hospitalization and the development of varicose veins (VV).  These risks can be easily mitigated when you compare the plethora of risks associated to sitting at your desk.

Conclusion:  These findings do not discredit the idea of working in a standing position, it merely translates to being an unknown.  What can be determined when evaluating these studies is that more research is required to demystify a topic that effects millions in professional environments.

Until then, the general thought is to have a blended approach.  Stand and sit in moderation, as well as taking breaks throughout the day to walk around the office.  The focus should be changing daily work behavior, rather than the elements.  Elect to park a bit further from the door, print a document across the office rather than at your desk, or stop by a peer’s cubicle rather than emailing. These seemingly minute changes can add up to a more diverse daily activity, potentially leading to a healthier work cycle.

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