Standing desks and health

I’ve been standing at my workstation for several years, and there’s no way I’d go back to sitting all day. I’m much more comfortable standing (less back/neck/arm discomfort, resulting in a better mood). But that’s as close as I’d get to a health claim. I don’t think it’s making me fitter or adding years to my life. If you’re looking for a massive productivity or health boost from your standing desk, a 2014 systematic review may disappoint you.

It concludes that standing and treadmill desks probably offer some health value, more so for obese users, but the evidence isn’t strong and there are hedge words all over the conclusion (my emphasis):

Based on the empirical evidence of current literature, this review concludes that standing and treadmill desks are potentially useful in reducing workplace sedentariness while having a positive influence on workplace stress and overall mood. The treadmill desk provides the greatest physiological improvements and is most beneficial for overweight and obese participants. However, the use of a treadmill desk results in larger decreases in work productivity and motor abilities than the standing desk.

Standing desk use does not elicit the same physiological impact as the treadmill desk but does result in the least change in productivity and motor abilities. Of the standing desks, a sit–stand desk seems to provide the most benefit allowing the employee to adjust their desks throughout the day. The standing-only desk could potentially result in additional complications with musculoskeletal conditions and feelings of fatigue and discomfort.

Overall, current evidence suggests that both standing and treadmill desks may be effective in improving overall health considering both physiological and mental health components. However, at present there still exist substantial gaps in the research to fully comprehend the utility of each type of desk to promote health.

I thank Aaron for sending me this review. I still love my standing desk.


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