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Stand-Up Desks and Your Health

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Stand-up desks have become very popular in the workplace as the answer to the unhealthy practice of sitting. Many have heard the new mantra that “sitting is the new smoking” which can lead to a variety of health risks from weight gain, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and musculoskeletal demise. Stand up desks are being marketed to workers promising better health and increased productivity.

A “stand-up desk” includes a wide variety of options from economical DIY furniture adaptations (a stack of books under your laptop) to custom free-standing furniture designs with electric motors to adjust height costing thousands of dollars. Popular versions include adjustable devices placed upon an existing desktop.

  Shot of young man standing at his desk and working on computer. businessman using computer in modern office. The popularity of the standing desk has exploded in part as “the answer” to the mental and physical detriments of sitting. However, recent studies caution the claims of this device as a workplace panacea. The reported benefits of the stand-up desk have yet to be proven and are for the most part overstated. One of the claims is that of weight loss. Standing in lieu of sitting burns a modest 8 calories per hour or 60 calories in a work day. You could skip the extra cookie and save more. Standing all day may also increase the incidence of symptomatic varicose veins and pain in the feet and back.

I purchased a modestly priced desk top version a few years ago after finding my posture worsening and my back aching from slouching for hours in my office chair. I have been quite happy with my results from posture, core strength and energy level. I also kick off my shoes and stand on a soft floor pad for comfort.

Stand up desks may not be appropriate for some work tasks or health conditions. Certain tasks that require elevated concentration levels and/ or fine dexterity like jewelry work, certain surgeries, or writing or reviewing important documents may be better accomplished seated. Persons with known back conditions, balance problems, varicose veins, or those prone to fluid retention may be poor candidates for a stand-up desk.

In summary, while it is evident that too much sitting is a health risk, too much standing may be problematic and the numerous claims of improved health with standing desks has not been proven. Prior to the purchase of a stand-up desk consider whether it is right for you. You may do just as well standing for phone calls, periodic stretching, walking at lunch, and being more mindful of your seated posture.

Now, about that office treadmill…

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Orthopedic doctor conveniently located near Nassau & Suffolk Counties in Long Island, NY