The trend for standing desks boomed into the market a few years ago. We all know that sitting with our rear ends firmly planted all day isn’t the best for us- but are standing desks really the perfect working solution it’s claimed? Angel Shack takes a proper look at this thorny issue.
We decided to evaluate three criteria- the physical benefits, mental benefits, and the strain placed on your body. Here’s what we found.
The pros and cons of sitting desks
Sitting at a desk has long been the classic symbol of a ‘productive’ work day, so let’s start here. Despite seeming the ‘lazy’ way out, sitting in fact can put immense strain on the body unless you’re putting a firm focus on ergonomic principles like not allowing the delicate hip nerves to pinch or placing excessive strain on the wrists and ankles. Furthermore, remaining in any position for long periods of time will lead to your muscles over-adapting to that position. In the case of sitting, this means shortened muscle and loss of flexibility in key areas like the hip flexors and calves. It also does nothing to burn calories, indirectly encouraging weight gain. Lastly, while sitting in an ergonomic manner that ensures easy blood flow and supports the spine isn’t impossible, humans are lazy creatures of habit, and it’s all too easy to cross our legs and ankles, slouch our spines and adversely impact the body even when we know we shouldn’t.
Physical effects aside, what is the mental impact of sitting? Here we could be into better territory. Sitting appeals to that genetic desire to conserve energy. It also is possibly the most comfortable way to spend the day, let’s not lie! No discomfort is impinging on performing at your best. However, newer studies suggest the reduced blood flow may also have some culpability in mental decline. The rise of sore joints, weight gain, backache and chronic wear injuries don’t exactly foster a positive mind set, either.
Are standing desks good or bad?
Standing desks are often sold as the perfect remedy to the damage sitting could cause. As is so often true with complex human bodies, however, the answer actually isn’t that simple. While a standing desk does, indeed, take away many of the issues with sitting we outlined above, it brings its own to the table instead. You’re burning a few more calories to keep your waist trimmer. Muscle activity is increased too, keeping blood flowing, and you are using the body more naturally through the day.
Sound perfect so far? Not quite! Standing- especially standing non-ergonomically- can lead to pinched lumbar disks and spine issues. It can also become tiring over time, causing discomfort and impaired concentration. Ask any hard-working nurse, or person in a predominantly standing profession if they feel energised and refreshed all the time, and the answer is likely to be no. Standing can also be bad for those with existing vascular or joint issues as it makes blood flow literally an uphill matter. As with sitting, the disadvantages of standing seem to aggregate the longer you stand.
What’s the verdict on standing vs sitting?
So if both standing all day and sitting all day have downsides- but both offer positives too- what are you to do to stay fighting fit and working productively?
Firstly, note that a lot of the damage both work styles do comes from poor posture, so whether you opt to stand, sit or combine the two work on achieving good ergonomics while doing so. This will cut down on almost all physical issues and make you more comfortable.
Secondly, as with so many things in life, it looks like a little bit of everything is better than focusing on one style only. The immobile nature of a sitting desk, and its health risks, can be offset by standing for a portion of the day and a work style that encourages movement, while you can avoid overloading your back, alleviate discomfort and stay more focused by sitting when called for.
While this may be the best solution for your body, maintaining two workstations wastes money and space both. Fortunately, we have an alternative to offer you. Consider a desk system like Angel Shack’s NXT, which allows a versatile switch to your working day and builds vertically instead of horizontally, allowing you to switch between positions depending on tasks and mood, and reap the advantages of both methods of working- while minimizing any disadvantages and keeping your budget as trim as your waist.