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Two years into the pandemic, standing desks have become all the rage. With 45% of full-time U.S. employees working remotely either all or part of the time, there’s been a massive shift to create comfortable and conducive work environments at home.
On the surface, standing desks seem like a great idea. Being sedentary, after all, has serious implications on your health including an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Swapping out the eight or more hours we spend sitting at our desks for standing must be better!
The truth is actually more complicated. So should you switch to a standing desk? Read on before making a decision.
The Standing Desk Hype: Debunked
Proponents of standing desks point out that standing requires more energy than sitting. By expending more energy, then, you’re being more active and therefore standing is better than sitting.
In actuality, standing is simply not a substitute for exercise. Standing burns only eight more calories per hour (88) than sitting does (80). That’s about 24 extra calories burned per three hours of using a standing desk, roughly the same number of calories in a carrot. This, researchers point out, is not enough to prevent obesity or type 2 diabetes.
The next thing advocates of standing desks bring up is that standing is better for back pain than sitting. But, standing doesn’t magically fix your posture. If you have bad posture and spend all day standing, you can actually exacerbate issues in your spine.
Working at a standing desk can be especially difficult for those with lower back pain, as standing actually puts more strain on your back than sitting does.
So if you do use a standing desk, make sure to stand straight with a natural S curve in your spine, and avoid hunching or slouching.
Other Standing Desk Cons
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or in retail, you know that being on your feet all day is exhausting. But why exactly is that?
First, standing for long periods of time puts pressure on your knees, hips, and feet. This pressure can lead to pain. If this pain causes you to shift more weight in one foot than another in order to ease the pressure, it can have a negative impact on your posture.
Being on your feet for too long can also cause you to develop varicose veins, as it results in your blood collecting enough to stretch and weaken the veins in your legs. In fact, people who stand for more than 6 hours a day are two or three times more likely to need surgery for varicose veins than people who stand or walk for less than 4 hours a day.
Prolonged standing, according to a study, results in measurable increases in arterial stiffness. And according to a a U.S. News Health report, standing all day can also boost your risk for carotid arteries, deep vein thrombosis, and other cardiovascular problems since the heart has to work against gravity to keep blood flowing up from your toes.
There are also some psychological consequences of using a stand desk. For some, it can be an excuse to head straight to the couch after work and indulge in inactivity, because they think they’ve spent all day doing something good for their body. In reality, standing doesn’t replace exercise.
It can also be downright difficult to work at a standing desk! While taking meetings while standing may be easy, drawing and writing can be more difficult while standing.
Turns out, the extra 300 or so calories burned per week at a standing desk is not worth the additional health problems it can cause. Watch Dr. Dennis Colonello, Los Angeles’s top chiropractor, explain additional ways that standing all day affects your heart, posture, and mental performance.
So, What’s the Best Way to Work at a Desk?
Our bodies aren’t made to sit all day, it’s true. But they’re also not meant to stand all day.
Our bodies are made to move.
The best thing you can do for your health is to keep active.
Make a point of scheduling movement breaks into your daily routine every 30 minutes or so. Leave your desk, take a walk, or go get some water. Throw in a few jumping jacks! weeI If you walk on your lunch break, you could burn around 200 calories each day depending on your weight – which is way more than simply standing at your desk.
Whether sitting or standing, your body needs to be properly aligned while you work. Your head, neck, and spine should be in a straight line when you stand, your elbows should form a 90-degree angle when your wrists are flat on the desk, and your monitor should be at eye level.
Being in any position for too long is harmful to your health. If you do choose to opt for a standing desk, choose an electric one that allows you to switch from sitting and standing and sit down periodically throughout the day so that your muscles can recover from being in one position all day.
Most important to remember, any form of inactivity, results in negative health implications. To truly create a healthy home office, invest in a chair that allows you to move while you sit, and take breaks often.