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Standing desks - Good or Bad?


In many workplaces, employees are seated at their desks for long periods at a time – sometimes for their entire working day, rarely getting up to move around.  This undoubtedly causes problems, such as neck pain, upper back pain and lower back pain.  The answer, according to some, is clearly to get everyone standing up.  Enter the craze for standing desks.

On a surface level, you can see the logic.  Sitting for the entire day is causing us problems, so make people stand instead.  The problem is there is a flaw in the basic principle behind this logic.  I’ve said it before, I’ll undoubtedly say it again: doing ANYTHING for the whole day is not going to be good for you!  Ask anyone who has worked on a factory production line, where they are stood up for their whole shift.  Standing for long periods causes problems.

Even those who enthuse about standing desks will often admit that their own low back pain is worse when they are stood for a long time in a queue, or when they spent a Saturday afternoon mooching around the local shopping centre.  So why would it be any different when they are at work?  Add into that the other complications of spending long periods of time on your feet, such as poor circulation in your legs and a failure of the valves in your leg-veins leading to swelling in your feet, ankles and legs, and the concept of standing for the whole working day seems to be an extremely bad idea.

The fact is, adopting any one posture for a long period, whether that’s sitting, standing or doing a handstand, will fatigue the muscles holding you in that posture.  As muscles fatigue they lose the ability to do their job, and you slowly fall out of that posture and into whatever position gravity forces you to.

So no, standing desks really are not a good thing.  Neither are sitting desks.  Height-adjustable desks, on the other hand can be good, as long as they are used properly.  Being able to continue working whether you are standing, leaning on a stool or sitting down in an office chair will help vary the muscles you are using, keep your posture as good as possible and reduce the chances of experiencing position-linked pain, while still enabling you to do the work you are being employed to complete.

Basically, people: MOVE!!!!!  Never spend more than 20-30 mins in any one position or doing any one specific task.  If you’ve been sitting, get up and walk around.  If you’ve been standing, have a rest.  If you been doing the vacuuming, switch to dusting.  If you’ve been weeding, switch to pruning.  If you’ve been watching TV, get up and make a cup of tea.  You’ll be amazed at the difference in yourself.

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