Standing Desk - Worse for Health Than Sitting?

Standing Desk - Worse for Health Than Sitting?

You might remember a few years ago a “crusade” of sorts was taken to sitting. The simple act of plopping down to rest your weary legs was blamed for all sorts of things from bad posture to back pain to even heart problems! [1]

The solution to the sitting “crisis” was standing - standing workstations, standing tables at restaurants, etc. If you were standing, you were doing something good for your health and enhancing your quality of life.

Related - If You Exercise, Is Sitting Still Bad?

Well, according to some new research, standing might not be the savior it was initially heralded to be.

The Standing Desk Study

Researchers from Curtin University in Australia conducted a small, but eye-opening, study that examined the effects of standing at a desk for prolonged periods of time on levels of comfort, cognitive function, muscle fatigue, movement, lower limb swelling and mental state.

For the study, researchers had 20 adult subjects stand at a workstation for two hours performing a “laboratory-based” computer work. Notable findings from the study attributed to prolonged standing at a workstation: [2]

  • Whole body discomfort increased
  • Sustained attention reaction time decreased
  • Creative problem solving improved
  • Lower limb swelling increased
  • Mental state decreased
  • No change in erector spinae, rectus femoris, biceps femoris or tibialis anterior muscle fatigue

The findings reinforce the findings of an earlier 2016 report that noted prolonged periods of standing increased back pain and varicose veins. That same report also noted that individuals were more tired at the end of their day from standing. [3]

The researchers concluded their study by stating:

“Prolonged standing should be undertaken with caution.”


Standing all the time is not the panacea it was originally heralded to be. Is it any worse than sitting for too long? No.

What should be taken from this study is that it’s not beneficial to remain in one static position for too long. Rotate between the two or better yet, go for a walk.

1) Harrington JL, Ayers C, Berry JD, et al. Sedentary Behavior and Subclinical Cardiac Injury. Circulation. 2017;136(15):1451 LP-1453.
2) Baker R, Coenen P, Howie E, Lee J, Williamson A, Straker L. A detailed description of the short-term musculoskeletal and cognitive effects of prolonged standing for office computer work. Ergonomics. February 2018:1-14. doi:10.1080/00140139.2017.1420825.
3) Shrestha N, Kukkonen-Harjula KT, Verbeek JH, Ijaz S, Hermans V, Bhaumik S. Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD010912. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010912.pub3.
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John Best - January 11, 2019

Nice tips. I work from home at a desk and try to get up as often as possible. Im 32 and get achy of I sit for too long. Cant imagine 20 years from now!

Damon Harrison - January 11, 2019

Good read.

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