Are Standing Desks Bad For You?

Using standing desks has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to combat the negative health effects of prolonged sitting particularly for those that use a computer. However, some people have raised concerns about whether standing for long periods can be bad for your health. In this article, we will explore the research on this topic and provide a comprehensive guide to the potential risks and benefits of using a sit-stand desk.

Key Takeaways:

  • Standing desks may provide advantages like lowering the risk of obesity, heart disease, and back discomfort, as well as boosting energy and alertness.
  • Although there is little evidence on the possible hazards and advantages of utilising a standing desk for your knees and back, it is crucial to adopt good posture, wear supportive shoes, and take rests frequently.
  • When working at a standing desk, utilising an anti-fatigue mat, dressing comfortably, wearing supportive shoes, maintaining good posture, taking breaks during the day, and switching between standing and sitting will help prevent knee and back problems.
  • It’s crucial to get into using a standing desk gradually because it shouldn’t be utilised as a replacement for regular exercise and everyday mobility.

What Is A Standing Desk?

A standing desk, also known as a sit-to-stand desk or a sit-stand desk, is a type of desk that allows you to work while standing up. These desks typically have adjustable heights, so you can switch between sitting and standing throughout the day. Some of the better standing desks are designed to be used with a stool or a leaning chair, which allows you to take some of the weight off your feet while still standing.

Can A Standing Desk Be Good For You?

Before we dive into whether standing desks are bad for you, let’s take a look at some of the benefits which can include a positive impact on your health and well-being:

  • Reduced Risk of Obesity: Studies have found that standing burns more calories than sitting, which can help to prevent weight gain and reduce the risk of obesity. Just note, that the benefits are very marginal.
  • Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Prolonged sitting has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, and standing has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar control.
  • Reduced Risk of Back Pain: Standing can help to improve posture and reduce the risk of back pain.
  • Increased Energy and Alertness: Some people report feeling more alert and focused when they work at a standing desk.

Are Standing Desks Bad For Your Knees?

There is limited research and studies that suggest standing at a standing desk is bad for your knees. However, it is important to adjust the standing desk to the correct height, use proper posture, and wear appropriate footwear. It should be noted that standing desks, while having many benefits compared to traditional desks, do not offer more orthopedic benefits. In short, there is no evidence to suggest standing desks are bad for your knees when standing for long periods.

standing desk knee pain
Young woman suffering from leg pain in office

How To Avoid Knee Pain When Using A Standing Desk

It is essential to set up the standing desk correctly to avoid knee pain such as the right elevation and positioning of the monitor height (also help reduce neck pain). This will help you to form good posture while standing to take the pressure off the knees and other joint problems when using a standing desk.

Wearing comfortable shoes, taking walking breaks, and alternating between standing and sitting can also alleviate any knee pain. Moreover, other standing desk accessories can be used to reduce the risk of knee pain from standing too long such as anti-fatigue mats which can help.

Sneakers or running shoes are the most popular type of shoe to wear at a standing desk since they are purposely designed to support your feet whilst running. The design benefits, such as increased traction and arch support, directly translate to the standing desk where you are in a stationary position.

Are Standing Desks Bad For Your Back?

It’s not clear-cut if standing at a standing desk is detrimental to your back. Standing for extended amounts of time can lessen the likelihood of shoulder and back discomfort brought on by prolonged sitting, but it can also have its own set of problems, mostly including knee pain. According to a study published in Harvard Health, you face the chance of experiencing back, leg, or foot pain if you suddenly switch from sitting all day to standing all day. It is preferable to ease into it by beginning with 30 to 60 minutes each day and progressively increasing the quantity.

Other Potential Risks Of Using A Standing Desk

While there are many potential benefits to using a standing desk, there are also some risks to consider. Here are some of the potential downsides:

Increased Risk of Varicose Veins

Long periods of standing may also raise the chance of developing varicose veins, which are twisted, swollen veins that can be both uncomfortable and ugly. When utilising a standing desk, it’s crucial to use an anti-fatigue mat, wear cozy, supportive shoes, keep excellent posture, take breaks throughout the day, and alternate between standing and sitting to reduce the risk of varicose veins.

Increased Risk of Foot Pain

Long durations of standing, especially when wearing unsupportive footwear, can result in foot pain and sores. Foot problems that don’t fit properly can get worse and in some cases even start them. Wearing compression socks, which relieve some of the pressure on the lower feet, using anti-fatigue mats, taking breaks, and attempting to sit with your legs raised—which encourages blood circulation since there is less pressure on the veins—are all ways to ease foot pain from standing all day.

Increased Risk of Fatigue

Standing at a standing desk for extended periods can be taxing, especially if you’re not used to it. This may result in exhaustion and reduced productivity. Fatigue can raise the risk of accidents, increase errors, and decrease productivity. Taking breaks, utilising anti-fatigue mats, and constantly switching between sitting and standing are all ways to prevent weariness at a standing desk.

What Does The Research Say About Using A Standing Desk For Too Long?

There have been several studies on the potential risks of using a standing desk for too long. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Standing desks should not be used as a substitute for daily movement and regular exercise, it is vital to keep this in mind.
  • A study published in the BMJ found that using a sit-stand desk for at least 30 minutes per day can reduce the amount of time spent sitting and improve overall health.
  • A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that using a standing desk can reduce discomfort in overweight and obese adults.
  • A study published in Harvard Health found that standing desks are unlikely to help with weight loss or avoiding weight gain, but may have other health benefits such as reducing the risk of shoulder and back pain.
  • A study published in UChicago Medicine found that standing desks can help reduce the risk of muscle and joint discomfort associated with prolonged sitting.
  • A study found that standing desks are not necessarily bad for knee pain, but it is important to use proper posture and supportive footwear.

How To Avoid Knee And Back Pain Using Standing Desks

Our recommendations for using standing workstations to avoid knee and back pain are provided below:

  1. By utilising an anti-fatigue mat, which provides a cushioned and supportive surface to stand on whilst working at an electric standing desk, thereby reducing strain on your feet, legs, and joints.
  2. Put on comfortable, supportive shoes. Flat-soled shoes that provide good arch support are essential for ensuring that your feet are comfortable
  3. Maintain a straight back, shoulders back posture by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  4. Take breaks throughout the day to sit down and unwind your feet.
  5. Alternate your posture frequently, and take walks to reduce your risk of developing knee and back pain. Some may also want to consider treadmill desks to keep active at your standing desk.
  6. Keep one foot up when changing positions by utilising a little footrest.
  7. Keep your wrists straight and parallel to the desk to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
  8. Avoid letting your knees lock.
  9. Ensure the desk height is correct. Use an ergonomic standing desk height calculator to find your ideal desk height.

Are Sit Stand Desks Worth The Knee Pain?

In conclusion, using a sit-stand desk may offer both advantages and disadvantages. Standing might lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, and back pain, but it can also raise your chance of knee discomfort, varicose veins, foot pain, and weariness. If you’re thinking about utilising a standing desk, it’s crucial to start gently, wear supportive shoes, have a straight spine, and take rests frequently.

Ultimately, there are more benefits to using a standing desk than risks, and in short, standing desks are worth using. It can be an effective tool for enhancing your health and productivity at work when used properly. Standing desks should not, however, be used as a substitute for regular exercise and movement throughout the day.

Related: How to zen your standing desk for maximum productivity.

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