Pros and cons of standing desks

by Aug 10, 20153Plus, Health and fitness, Office workout and deskercise

[Tweet “”Sitting is the new smoking” so we are told.”]   Standing desks are a new office trend as everyone thinks of ways to beat the downsides of physically sitting all day.

The American Cancer Society monitored 123,000 people over 18-years and found the death rate was highest in people who sat for more than six hours per day.

That is many of us right?


In other research with over 200,000 participants, it was noted that even active people (those who exercised for five hours plus a week) had an increased risk of death if they sat for longer periods.

Some studies show that standing desks can increase productivity by 10%.

But is it something we can just go out and do, or is it more complicated requiring specialist ergonomic research. It seems that way.

The body and sitting

Sitting down all day is impacts the spine, the circulation of the blood and requires limited movement.  A sedentary life style reduces the flow of blood back to the heart  causes the blood to pool in the lower extremities, which is inefficient and unhealthy for your body. Lactic acid also accumulates and the muscles tire and can become painful. These symptoms are neutralized by movement. (Read all about  the value of deskercise.) 

When we sit, our pelvis rotates and the curve in the lumbar spine flattens. That compresses the back region and disks, and can create medical issues. A lumbar support can help and he has seen some modern chairs with inflatable bladders that can adjust to your needs.  A goal would be to adjust the position at which we sit at our desks to vary the stress made on one part of the body.

[Tweet “To our detriment, we are creatures of habit and old habits die hard.”]

The best combo

Sit-stand desks, of course, are an ideal combo.  The best way is to find a balance between sitting and standing which can vary between switching up ever 15 minutes  to 2 hours.  Standing is better for the spine, mechanically, as you maintain your spinal curvature.

But many of us have become out of shape and the best way to introduce a standing desk is in 30 minute stints. One  reader said:

“I made the mistake of seeing a standing desk as a challenge and set myself unrealistic goals at the beginning. After sitting down for 20 years I wondered why after 2 hours my legs and back hurt. The best advice is to alternate standing and sitting in 10 -15 minute intervals increasing slowly over time. After 6 months I was probably up to an hour of standing in comfort”

A good investment is a stool to lean against until the muscles are sufficiently strengthened so that standing for longer stints becomes comfortable.

But what about productivity?

The jury seems to be out. Some say that they feel energized and feel more productive. Others are more cautious.  One Creative Director told us that for her, a standing desk worked for short life cycle tasks such as answering emails, brain storming, preparing pitches or making calls,  but was less effective for activity that required high levels of concentration.

“I found that for work requiring focus and concentration, I worked better sitting down, but I wasn’t sure if that was habit!”


But whether you chose standing or sitting desks the key is movement. All experts say we should get up and move around every two hours.


Despite the potential benefits and relative ease of changing to a standing desk , it’s probably a good idea to test if a standing desk is right for you, before making an investment

  1.  Cobble together  a stand up working space and measure your productivity during one working week sitting and one week standing, and see if there is any difference. If you end up being more productive with a DIY standing desk setup, it probably makes sense to invest in a more permanent setup. Some companies will even allow trials before purchase.
  2. Set up an alert to remind you to move between sitting and standing, or to take some time out to stretch or exercise after each hour of work. Does that make a difference?

flexo-standing-desk-maple-surface (1)

Certain fine motor skill tasks are harder to carry out standing up. For those carrying out this type of work, a standing desk could still be a good idea, but maybe only for breaks or routine admin tasks like email and phone calls. For some tasks that call for high levels concentration or precise fine motor movements, the chair may still be in your future

[Tweet “We just have to keep on top if it – but with our minds not our backsides!”]

What are your experiences of  standing desks?

Check out the 3Plus coaching and mentoring programs for women. Contact us.


(Standing desk image source:

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