To Stand, Or Not To Stand: Is A Standing Desk The Right Choice For You?

By now, most people have heard the panic-inducing news that sitting at your desk all day can be deadly. In fact, studies have shown that sitting for prolonged periods every day raises your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and even an earlier death. Sitting is said to be so bad for you that it’s been compared to smoking, and time at the gym doesn’t seem to offset these negative effects. But there’s a solution out there that’s growing in popularity: the standing desk. Workers are increasingly giving up their chairs for taller desks so that they can stand while they work. No sitting equals no horrible health problems, right?

But Wait a Second …

Not so fast: It turns out that standing isn’t necessarily great, either. For one, standing all day can be hard on your knees and your feet; it can get pretty uncomfortable over the course of a day, standing for hour after hour as you try to focus on getting your work done. Some jobs just lend themselves better to sitting; even surgeons have been known to perform some procedures while sitting because it makes it easier for them to focus. But on top of that, it turns out that prolonged standing can be harmful to your health, too. Many studies have shown that standing all day can cause problems like varicose veins and even carotid artery disease. In pregnant women, it can even lead to premature labor. Apparently, too much of anything, whether it’s sitting or standing, is a bad thing.

So What Are We Supposed to Do?

If we shouldn’t sit all day and we shouldn’t stand all day, what should we do? It turns out that the answer is pretty common-sense: Just move. You don’t need to be either sitting or standing all day, but rather, it is better for you if you just don’t stay in one position all the time. The solution will vary from person to person, depending on how you work best, what kind of work you do, and how deep you or your employer’s pockets are. For instance, some people might be able to spend the day working at a treadmill desk, while others might find that they can’t focus enough to do their jobs while walking. Others might like working at a sit/stand desk, which converts easily from one to the other so you can switch back and forth throughout the day. This might be the best option for a lot of people, but they’re not cheap, so your boss probably isn’t going to be in any hurry to buy them for the whole office.

As for the rest of us (which is likely to be most of us), the best thing we can do, experts say, is just to do our best to move around throughout the day. Get up and walk to the water cooler once in a while. Stand up and stretch. Lean back in your chair a while, or put one foot up on a footrest, then the other. Or just plain fidget: drum your fingers on the desk, or chew gum, or jiggle your leg. Anything that gets your muscles moving and keeps you from being stock-still in one position all day is bound to help.