Many people in the U.S. lead a very sedentary lifestyle, with a whopping 86 percent of Americans working at desk jobs, hunched over their computer all day long, according to U.S. News. However, if you go into basically any office these days, odds are, someone has a standing desk. Chairs are more and more frequently being eliminated from cubicle and office settings due to the belief that standing desks are better for you in the long term.
TBH, the claims about the dangers of sitting can get a bit dramatic. CNN Health say that sitting is just as bad as being addicted to smoking, and NBC News says that spending too much time with your behind parked in a chair can increase your mortality risk significantly.
The truth is though, sitting down for prolonged periods isn't in and of itself going to kill you or lead to heart failure. A 2016 study showed that about an hour of physical activity per day (whether it be a casual stroll or a more intense sweat sesh) eliminated the concerns surrounding sitting and its supposed dire unhealthiness.
But then there's the fact that maybe not everyone has time for an hour of physical activity per day. So in that case, would a standing desk be the answer to better health?
Holly Phillips, MD, an internist in New York City told Prevention that having a standing desk can encourage more movement during the workweek, which can help counteract a sedentary lifestyle.
This is because standing up more often might make you feel more energetic or productive due to its ability to boost your mood and reduce stress, whereas sitting down could induce fatigue or lethargic sensations.
Plus, according to a small study in the US National Library of Medicine, standing while you work can actually help your blood sugar levels return to a stable state more quickly after you eat. This leads to better hormone regulation, quicker metabolism, and less of that "hangry" feeling that you've probably complained about at some point.
And according to Healthline, another pro of investing in a standing desk is reduced back pain, which often comes on from too much sitting and poor posture, day after day. Studies have shown that lower back pain significantly improved or disappeared after several weeks of using standing desks — and that's something worth taking a stand for, amirite? (Oh, dad jokes. How I love you.)
However, when it comes down to it, standing desks probably aren't worth all the hype being placed upon them — and honestly, they might not be that much better than sitting down all day.
Ken Tameling, an ergonomic seating expert, told US News that it doesn't really make a difference at all if you're using a standing desk if you're literally standing in the same place all day.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re standing or sitting, if you’re doing it statically, your body wasn’t designed that way. You need to move.”
Being sedentary for prolonged periods of time is the real issue at hand because of its association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death. The thing is, "sedentary" has essentially become synonymous with the word "sitting," so people have began to believe that their chairs are the problem.
But as long as you're getting movement in throughout the day, whether it be while you're sitting down at your desk or while you're standing and getting sh*t done, you'll be reaping the same benefits.
So, no, standing desks aren't ultimately much healthier than sitting down, when you look at the facts. If you don't want to invest in a standing desk, you can try incorporating lengthening and rejuvenating stretches at your desk, to relax your muscles, get in some movement and relieve tightness and soreness.
But if you do opt for a standing desk, that's cool too. You do you. Just make sure you're shaking your bod out every know and then or taking a lap around the office to get your blood flowing.
As long as you're finding ways to sneak in some low key movement, whether you're standing or sitting, your body will definitely thank you in the long run.