Are standing desks just the next fad?

A discussion on the merits of standing desks

David Barrow

Rehab Guru Co-Founder

Stand up desks are some­what of a pop­u­lar fea­ture in the offices of some com­pa­nies and schools who are pro­gres­sive at sup­port­ing their staff to be health­i­er, hap­pi­er and more productive

There are claims that stand­ing instead of sit­ting all day can have a pos­i­tive influ­ence on life expectan­cy, although the evi­dence is con­flict­ing. Anec­do­tal­ly, back pain, neck pain, hip pain and shoul­der pain have sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved with stand up/​adjustable height desks There is quite a lot of evi­dence to sup­port this claim with jour­nals based on pos­ture and report­ed pain in chil­dren at school and in adults.

What is cat­e­gor­i­cal in the research is the ener­gy expen­di­ture dur­ing a day when com­par­ing stand­ing to sit­ting and many are tak­ing to stand up desks with the hope of help­ing them to be more active, lose weight or tone up their hips and legs.

There are how­ev­er some reports of peo­ple tri­alling stand up desks who ini­tial­ly notice these pos­i­tive changes fol­lowed by ​‘can­kles’. A phe­nom­e­non which describes a calf-like appear­ance of ankles caused by swelling. Have they got hid­den vas­cu­lar dis­ease? Are they just stand­ing in one posi­tion all day with­out mov­ing around?

Are stand­ing desks just anoth­er fad par­a­digm that get rid of one prob­lem and then cause others?

Are stand­ing desks just anoth­er fad par­a­digm that get rid of one prob­lem and then cause others?

What is cat­e­gor­i­cal in the research is the ener­gy expen­di­ture dur­ing a day when com­par­ing stand­ing to sit­ting and many are tak­ing to stand up desks with the hope of help­ing them to be more active, lose weight or tone up their hips and legs.

There are how­ev­er some reports of peo­ple tri­alling stand up desks who ini­tial­ly notice these pos­i­tive changes fol­lowed by ​‘can­kles’. A phe­nom­e­non which describes a calf-like appear­ance of ankles caused by swelling. Have they got hid­den vas­cu­lar dis­ease? Are they just stand­ing in one posi­tion all day with­out mov­ing around?

Are stand­ing desks just anoth­er fad par­a­digm that get rid of one prob­lem and then cause others?

The ini­tial ratio­nale behind stand­ing desks revolved around the notion that humans are not designed to just sit on a chair for 8 hours a day.

What hap­pened to the abil­i­ty to sit cross-legged?

In many indige­nous cul­tures and third world coun­tries peo­ple can be seen adopt­ing a squat posi­tion for long peri­ods of time to per­form tasks such as cook­ing or work­ing out­side since desks and work sur­faces are not used.

This posi­tion is not too dis­sim­i­lar to the squat pose seen with many tod­dlers and chil­dren who bend to look and play or pick an object from the floor. We often con­sid­er this pose the per­fect squat posi­tion and chil­dren lose the abil­i­ty to do this when they are sent to school and start spend­ing so much time sit­ting on chairs as well as sit­ting on a sofa or chair to relax­ing on sofas.

To elab­o­rate and expand this train of thought… What hap­pened to the abil­i­ty to sit cross-legged?

I used to do this as a child, yet when I trav­elled to the jun­gle of South East Asia, I found this pose crip­pling. I vis­it­ed and lived with indige­nous fam­i­lies with­in the Bor­neo rain­for­est dur­ing my time there. There were no tables or chairs and it was bad man­ners to sit with the soles of your feet show­ing. Cross legged sit­ting was a must! At the time when I thought that I was in good con­di­tion, I soon found that squat­ting for peri­ods of time or sit­ting cross legged on the floor to eat and socialise gave me an oppor­tu­ni­ty to exam­ine my con­scious­ness as far as my per­cep­tion of phys­i­cal health was con­cerned. After a very uncom­fort­able few weeks had passed, I felt more mobile and free of move­ment than I had remem­bered in my adult years.

So maybe we should embrace a change from the cul­ture of sit­ting for 8 hours at school or work. Give stand up desks a go, or try adjustable height desks that allow easy tran­si­tion through­out a day between chair sit­ting, stand­ing or maybe even cross-legged sit­ting. And maybe a grad­ual tran­si­tion from our eight-hour a day sit­ting cul­ture. No one wants cankles!

< PrevblogNext >
David Barrow

David is a Physiotherapist who has been involved in Professional Sport, battlefield trauma, chronic pain and the NHS. He continues to work clinically alongside his development role in Rehab Guru. David is passionate about Health tech to transform outcomes for patients

David Barrow

Rehab Guru Co-Founder