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Surprising Science

Standing Desks Are “Just Fashionable and Not Proven Good for Your Health”

Sitting for eight hours a day is bad for our health, this we know. But there's not enough evidence to prove standing is any better for our wellbeing, according to one meta-analysis.

Sitting for eight hours a day is bad for our health, this we know. But there’s not enough evidence to prove standing is any better for our wellbeing, according to one meta-analysis. 

In recent years, an entire industry has been trying to find a solution to counteract this health scare. After all, premature death from an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems aren’t something to be taken lightly. However, a meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviewslooked at 20 studies which touted the benefits of standing. These findings may have been overstated.

“The idea you should be standing four hours a day? There’s no real evidence for that,” Dr. Jos Verbeek, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, told NPR. “What we actually found is that most of it is, very much, just fashionable and not proven good for your health.”

The researchers found faults in the the way the studies were conducted. “The quality of evidence was very low to low for most interventions mainly because studies were very poorly designed and because they had very few participants,” they wrote. There were also concerns about the lasting effects from standing—the longest study they looked at ran for six months—with no way to surmise if the long-term health benefits of standing outweighed sitting.

“I would say that there’s evidence that standing can be bad for your health,” Verbeek said. One Danish study from 2005 found people who choose to stand for hours on end may develop varicose veins.

The takeaway from this study shouldn’t be that standing is bad or good—the evidence available isn’t sufficient to make an honest determination, according to Verbeek and his team. However, there are pilot studies, which have shown how standing can help desk workers get over that 3pm slump or even boost cognitive functioning. Whether a standing desk will help keep us from an early grave, though, cannot be determined.

The office environment does need a makeover to encourage movement throughout the day, he told NPR. A good place to start could making the choice to take the stairs instead of the elevator.


Photo Credit:ramsey beyer/ Flickr

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

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