By now, you’ve heard about standing desks and their popularity. Studies warning about the health dangers of sitting all day and sedentary lifestyles are the reason why standing desks are popular.
If you’re thinking about getting a standing desk for your home office or asking for one at work, there are a few things you should know first. In this article, I will go over the following:
- When standing desks became popular
- Whether these desks are worth it
- Alternative solutions to sedentary work environments
Let’s get started!
When Did Standing Desks Become Popular?
Believe it or not, standing desks are not something new. The first forms of the standing desk appeared in the 1400s with Leonarda Da Vinci. However, standing desks started to become popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
At first, standing desks were usually found among well-to-do households. Some members of high society remarked about the health dangers of remaining sedentary.
Historical figures, from Benjamin Franklin to Winston Churchill, were known to use standing desks. But as jobs have become less physical, more workers are requesting standing desks as a way to combat the negative health effects of sitting all day.
Even if you exercise every day, studies show you need to up your game to reduce the harmful effects of prolonged sitting.
Since a standing desk reduces the amount of time someone sits, the thought is workers can avoid adverse health effects.
Those negative effects include an increase in blood pressure, weight gain, and diseases that can come from unwanted weight gain. Large tech employers, such as Facebook and Google, have let workers use standing desks.
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This practice increased the popularity in recent years as more employers have sought to address employees’ concerns and needs.
Check out this video about the negative health effects from prolonged sitting:
Are Standing Desks Worth It?
The research on whether standing desks are worth it seems to point toward alternatives.
It acknowledges that sitting all day can contribute to the development of diabetes, obesity, and even cancer.
However, standing at a desk does not burn that many more calories than sitting.
For most people, using a standing desk burns about 8 more calories each hour. Physical fitness and health experts agree that it’s not significant enough to alter the effects of sitting all day.
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What standing desks can do for some is help alleviate back, neck, and shoulder pain. However, extended periods of standing can lead to pain and soreness for others.
If you’ve ever worked a job in retail or in foodservice, you probably recall aching feet and back and joint pain. You might also have experienced leg pain and swelling.
Why They May Not Be Worth the Expense
But while standing in one place for most of the workday can lead to some of the problems people are trying to prevent, alternating between sitting and standing may have some benefit.
It can help break up periods of sitting, helping to reduce joint stiffness and improve circulation.
For some, sitting for extended periods can aggravate the development of blood clots or exacerbate conditions like poor circulation or lymphoedema.
But the financial investment in a standing desk can cost you or a company hundreds to thousands of dollars.
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Some people have gotten around this by elevating their computer monitors with books or shelves. This is a makeshift way to create the same functionality as a standing desk at a fraction of the cost.
It’s a good way to try the arrangement out to see if it’s something you’ll use and benefit from.
With more employees working remotely or under hybrid schedules, some organizations may not believe standing desks are worth the investment.
What are the Alternatives to Standing Desks?
One of the best alternatives to standing desks is taking walking breaks during the workday. Using your lunch break to walk or do some other form of exercise ends up burning more calories than standing.
For example, walking for an hour will burn 210 calories instead of the additional 64 you will burn by standing for 8 hours.
Doing an hour of physical activity or breaking up that hour throughout the day into smaller segments will do more for your health than a standing desk.
You could sit for 2 hours and then get up to walk around the building or a nearby park for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, go back to sitting at work for another 2 hours and get up again to walk for another 20 minutes.
You’d repeat this cycle every 2 to 3 hours to get in an hour of walking.
Another alternative is to walk for 60 minutes straight halfway through the day. Then, take smaller breaks throughout the day to stand up and stretch.
For instance, you sit for an hour and a half and then get up to stretch and perform minor movements like lifting dumbbell weights for a few minutes.
You can also stand up every few hours at a regular desk during video calls or webinars.
Some people also use treadmill desks instead of standing desks. However, these desks may be just as expensive.
However, they do give you the advantage of being able to walk while working. Consider whether this will be feasible for you and how realistically fast you can go.
Final Thoughts on the Popularity of Standing Desks
The popularity of standing desks is driven by a need and desire to reduce the amount of sitting we do at work.
Most people know sedentary lifestyles are unhealthy but struggle to get in enough exercise between work and home responsibilities.
A lot of workers might see standing desks as a way to improve health and prevent the development of diseases like diabetes and obesity. However, standing desks alone are insufficient.
You still need to pay attention to your diet and get in regular physical activity.
For this reason, standing desks may not be worth it unless you find they help alleviate back and joint pain or circulation problems.