Standing desks have been a bit of an office fitness fad for the past few years, and the theory behind them is actually pretty sound. Human beings didn’t evolve to sit at desks for 12 hours each day, so if we have to be at our computers for extended periods of time we may as well do it in a way that doesn’t inhibit our natural body functioning.
However new research conducted by scientists at Curtin University have cautioned against the rising trend, suggesting that working at standing desks should come with some serious warnings.
“Due to concerns about excessive sedentary exposure for office workers, alternate work positions such as standing are being trialled,” explained the authors. “However, prolonged standing may have health and productivity impacts, which this study assessed. The observed changes suggest replacing office work sitting with standing should be done with caution.”
Specifically, the study predicts that standing desks affect productivity, and cognitive functions. The results, published in Ergonomics, observed 20 workers and their physiological responses to using standing desks.
On observation, reports of discomfort in lower back and limbs significantly increased as a result of usage. Mental reactions were also identified to suffer after only 90 minutes of use, although the study did suggest that ‘creative thinking’ was increased.
The new research is further confirmation of risks associated with prolonged periods of standing. According to a 2015 study published by the US National Library of Medicine, standing for work can lead to swollen veins, and a host of cardiac problems.
With standing desks going for upwards of $300, it seems that it may be safer for your body (and wallet) to steer clear. However regular standing and movement still holds a place in a healthy workplace and the research supporting this cannot be ignored.
Our suggestion? Try to incorporate movement into your otherwise sedentary day with walking meetings, getting up to talk to co workers instead of emailing your boss from 5 metres away, and squeezing in a few more trips to the office kitchen.