Due to our involvement in promoting Wellness at Work we often get asked about whether employees should have standing desks. It has been widely acknowledged that prolonged sitting leads to chronic medical conditions and musculoskeletal disorders, so are standing desks the solution to these problems?
BMJ expert guidelines in 2015 recommended that workers spend 2 hours of their working day standing and doing light activities with an aim to gradually increase to 4 hours per day over time. A Cochrane review in 2016 found evidence that standing desks can facilitate reaching this target. This review found that people who use sit-stand desks sit less (between 30mins - 2 hours less per day) than people who use static desks. They also found workers with sit-stand desks sat for less time outside of work and had fewer periods of sitting for greater than 30 minutes at one time. Although it should be noted that this evidence is based on low quality research.
However it is important to note that although changing posture from sitting to standing can have health benefits, if you have a standing desk you should not just substitute prolonged sitting for prolonged standing. Prolonged standing has been linked with other negative health implications.
Our top tips to reduce prolonged sitting are:
Make movement a regular part of your day and go for a walk or to the gym in your lunch hour
Do postural exercises at your desk to stretch tight muscles and activate your core
Plan your work day so that you change your activity and posture regularly, eg. standing up to take calls
Reduce the time you spend sitting outside of work
Do both cardiovascular training and strength training
Have a proper desk assessment and ask a physiotherapist if you are unsure what desk set up is best for you
If you want a standing desk due to a musculoskeletal condition such a low back pain, then consult your physiotherapist to discuss whether a standing desk is suitable for you as prolonged standing can worsen some conditions.