Sit, stand, or both?

A not so recent trend in office work is the “standing desk” which is essentially a desk that you can raise the working surface of, thus allowing you to stand and work. Some of the nicer (note: expensive) ones come with memory settings and presets so you can alternate seamlessly without having to worry about ergonomics adjustments every time.

The last few years; particularly since moving to Seattle, I have seen this become increasingly popular amongst my colleagues, and so I decided to do some research in addition to trying it out for myself.

My Experience

At 6’5″ I found standing to be nothing short of cumbersome. Most desks struggled to adjust to the necessary height to be “appropriate” for ergonomics purposes, and even when they did, I felt no tangible benefit to the act of standing. In fact I actually noticed that reading was much more intense on my eyes, and my posture suffered dramatically after longer bouts of reading; particularly when I had to stare at code for prolonged periods of time.

Furthermore, the cabling for my monitor had to stretch to its maximum to fit the necessary heights, which I readily admit is a “tall person problem” but nevertheless, a problem.

The Experts

Briefly referencing a few studies by institutions I regard highly, I found much the same sentiment. Ultimately standing offered no substantial benefit to justify the hype, and in some people actually introduces health risks; particularly those with circulation issues, or with foot/ankle pain.

  1. CUergo: Sitting and Standing at work
  2. Stand at work if you like, but don’t brag about the benefits
  3. UCLA Ergonomics: Standing vs. Sitting at Work
  4. Is Standing Really Better Than Sitting At Work? Try Doing Both

Summarizing

In the end, the only thing any of the “experts” agree on is that doing either exclusively is not the solution. Standing desks generally yield the best results after 30 days of adjusting to the new setup, and when they do, still having the flexibility to alternate is generally best. What proves to be the most important element from health perspective is physically standing up and walking for 5-10 minutes every 20-50 minutes, breaking up the stationary position. For me, this was already my preference so I lucked out. And with the help of my Apple Watch, I’m reminded to get off my lazy butt if I forget how glued to my seat I am, which for someone like me is a welcomed reminder!

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