Standing desks: Are they worth the hype?

Standing desks: Are they worth the hype?

A major problem for office workers (and even physicians), is that they sit down for most of the day working at a computer. People who sit a lot every day have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and early death. Sitting burns fewer calories and research has shown a link to weight gain and obesity.

So in a nutshell…Sitting too much is Bad for your Health!

Standing desks: Are they worth the hype?

Standing desks: What’s the rationale?

There has been incredible hype behind standing desks for years.

Proponents argue that sitting should be avoided, even at work, and that standing desks can improve cardiovascular health. However, improvement in cardiovascular health has not been proven in scientific studies. Standing desks are not a substitute for exercise. So, while your neck and back may feel better, and a standing desk may improve your ergonomics at work, it does not replace your home exercise program. You should still take walking breaks at work, regardless of if you are using a sitting or standing desk.

Benefits of a Standing Desk

  1. Standing Lowers Your Risk of Weight Gain and Obesity
    • While exercise is the most effective way to burn calories quickly, simply choosing to stand instead of sitting can also be beneficial.
    • In fact, when compared to an afternoon of sedentary work, an equal amount of time spent standing has been shown to burn over 170 additional calories.
    • That’s almost 1000 extra calories burned each week from simply standing at our desk each afternoon.
  2. Using a Standing Desk May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
    • Generally speaking, the more your blood sugar levels increase after meals, the worse it is for your health.
    • This is especially true for those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
    • In a small study of 10 office workers, standing for 180 minutes after lunch reduced the blood sugar spike by 43% compared to sitting for the same amount of time.
  3. Standing Desks Appear to Reduce Back Pain
    • Back pain is one of the most common complaints of office workers who sit all day.
    • To determine if standing desks could improve this, several studies have been done on employees with long-term back pain.
    • Participants have reported up to a 32% improvement in lower back pain after several weeks of using standing desks.
  4. Standing Desks Help Improve Mood and Energy Levels
    • Standing desks appear to have a positive influence on overall well-being.
    • In one 7-week study, participants using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue than those who remained seated the entire work day.
  5. Standing More May Help You Live Longer
    • Studies have found a strong link between increased sitting time and early death.
    • This is not surprising given the strong association between sedentary time, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
    • In fact, a review of 18 studies found those who sit the most are at a 49% greater risk of dying early than those who sit the least.

Standing desks: Are they worth the hype?


  • Standing desks are not a substitute for exercise. You should still take walking breaks at work and maintain your home exercise program.
  • If your desk is too high, a keyboard tray with a negative slope improves your ergonomics by orienting your wrists in neutral.

It’s Time to Take a Stand

  • Reducing sedentary time can improve physical, metabolic and even mental health. This is why sitting less and standing more is such an important lifestyle change.
  • If you want to try this out, then most places who sell office furniture also offer sit-stand desks.
  • If you plan to start using a standing desk, it’s recommended you split your time 50-50 between standing and sitting.

Dr. Jenny Yuan
Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Resident

New York Presbyterian Hospital

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