Sitting or Standing At Work: Which is Better?

The rise of computer-centric office work has produced a routine of too much sitting and not enough movement and physical activity throughout the day. To promote better health, the American Medical Association announced a 2013 policy change to encourage employers to provide options for employees so that they can avoid sustained sitting.

Should you work sitting or standing for better health? You decide. Here are some facts:

Man Standing At Work Desk

Photo Credit: “Studio Desks: Eric Benoit” by Juhan Sonin, CC BY 2.0

The Rise of Standing Desks

The concept of an ergonomically correct work desk isn’t new. Aligning your body position for your work, such as with a computer, mouse or keyboard, has been a topic of interest for more than 40 years. More recent is the versatility in design and availability of “standing desks” or workstations.

From do-it-yourself wood risers atop traditional desks to tall-legged desks to the expensive mechanized options, standing desks have become a trend in office furniture. Why?

One study points to the amount of potential calories burned from standing. According to Dr. John Buckley, Professor of Applied Exercise Science at the University of Chester in England, standing at work for three hours a day, five days a week, during the course of a year, is equivalent to running about 10 marathons a year.

Do a Test

How to decide if sitting or standing at work is best for you?

Depending on the kinds of tasks you do at your desk, you might find it difficult to focus while standing so that’s a very practical consideration. When sitting, you might be less aware of your body and more inclined to slouch or lean forward toward your computer monitor, bending your spine and neck at an uncomfortable angle.

Perhaps the best way to decide, if practical, is to test each option, to see which works best for you over time. If you choose a standing desk, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and get a gel or comfortable floor mat to absorb the pressure of being on your feet.

Woman Sitting At Work DeskIt’s Not Just Ergonomics

Even if health is a primary concern, you probably can’t just quit your day job. If you spend the majority of your day sitting now, you might think that standing will resolve everyday back, hip and muscle aches, as well as improve your overall health and wellness. However, standing isn’t the whole solution.

Beyond just testing a standing desk, be mindful, too, of taking breaks more frequently and moving around, to avoid being sedentary. Similarly to sitting, standing for a prolonged time without motion can cause short- and long-term issues such as stiffness, problems with blood circulation, and aches.

Want to try a standing desk, but not sure where to start?

One homemade option that’s frequently tried is to stack a coffee table or other small tables atop a standard desk. If you try it, consider getting a tall stool to lean against and for brief sitting breaks, so that you can remain productive while giving your legs and feet a periodic rest.

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Categories: Health & Safety
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