Standing desks may not be as good for health as previously thought

Trending at offices are standing desks that allows the user to stand for longer hours in an attempt to reduce sedentary time. While sitting for a long period of time is not a good idea, a new study finds that standing for long hours may not be good for health either.

The new study that proves standing desks are not good for health is titled, “A detailed description of the short-term musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of prolonged standing for office computer work”, and was published in the latest issue of the journal Ergonomics.

For this study the team of researchers from Curtin University in Australia, allowed 20 participants to stand for two hours at a stretch. End of the study they noted that most of the participants showed swelling of their legs and demonstrated significant mental sluggishness. Results also showed that with time the muscles of the individuals showed signs of fatigue. The total body discomfort levels were also higher and attention reaction time reduced. “Creative decision making” however seemed to have improved with the standing desks. Authors concluded, “The observed changes suggest replacing office work sitting with standing should be done with caution.”

According to experts standing desk use has not been backed by science but by trends that allow makers to make profits. These standing desks have been purported to cause weight loss, reduced back ache and improve heart health. They are also marketed to improve productivity by increasing alertness. Taking breaks with walks in between work might be a better idea experts believe. Ideally a combination of both sitting and standing throughout the day with an adjustable seat and desk should be the norm. The top of the monitor should be at the level of the eyes and the desk and the elbow should make a right angle even when the person is standing. Standing desks, the authors add should be paired with a good pair of comfortable shoes rather than high heels.

One of the major drawbacks of this study was the fact that it was conducted in a very small population of participants. Further long term studies that include more number of participants can provide a deeper understanding of the benefits and harms caused by the standing desks. For example the participants in the study might have been genetically predisposed to developing leg swelling and back pain on prolonged standing. A larger sample of participants would help eliminate this bias. As of now the authors warn that using these desks should be with caution.

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