More and more businesses and people are buying into the hype behind standing desks. But are standing desks all they are advertised to be?
Most of the studies carried out so far are biased as they tend to look at the benefits of standin
g desks while ignoring their drawbacks.
This article will look at seven disadvantages and dangers of using standing desks. We will also look at how you can minimize the hazards of using standing desks.
So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
1. Tiredness, Pain, and Soreness – Legs and Feet
The most obvious and yet less spoken about fact of standing desks is the tiredness, soreness, and pain accompanying them.
Using a standing desk means you have to spend a large part of your day standing, which puts a lot of pressure on your feet, legs, knees, and hips. That’s why you’ll feel more fatigue, soreness, and pain at the end of your day.
Getting used to this level of fatigue, pain, and soreness can take anywhere between days, weeks, or even months for some people.
In light of this, standing desks seem more of a hassle than they’re worth. Why? The pros of using these desks don’t offset their drawbacks. Simply put, it takes more effort to do the same work standing than sitting.
2. Standing Is Not Exercise
A common mistake yet understandable. Some people opt for the standing desk because they think it will help them shed some pounds, which is not entirely wrong. But neither is it completely true.
For most people, an extra 8 calories will not make much of a difference. So torturing yourself by standing at work may not be worth it.
If you want to burn calories, taking a walk is a better option. Walking burns about 210 calories an hour.
To put it into perspective, you can burn the same number of calories by walking for 20 minutes as standing for an hour. Anyone can tell which one is the better choice. Moreover, walking is healthier, more fun, and less painful than standing at your desk.
Remember, standing cannot replace actual exercise. So don’t become a victim of great advertising.
3. Leg and Foot Swelling
Approximately 90% of women and 15% of men suffer from swelling in their legs and feet. For these people, sitting in a high chair or stool will increase the swelling in their legs and feet.
Knowing this, some people might think that using a standing desk will help ease their swelling condition. But, unfortunately, that isn’t true, as standing causes similar or higher levels of swelling than sitting.
If you are looking for safer ways to ease leg and foot swelling, consider doing the following:
- Sitting in an ergonomic chair with a footrest set at 30°.
- Adding a lot of leg movement at your workstation.
- Taking regular walking or standing intervals.
Also, check out our full list of recommendations at the end of this article.
4. Lower-Back Pain and Discomfort
Regularly standing for over an hour leads to the development of pain in your lower back area near the bum.
For some people, this pain will fade away after some time. However, for others, the pain will worsen over time.
For the second group of people, continuing to use standing desks without regular resting intervals can cause further damage to their health and back.
A study on Australian bank tellers showed that they experienced the highest lower back pain and discomfort when standing than sitting.
So if you want to reduce your chances of developing LBP (lower back pain), you are better off sitting than standing.
However, you should remember that sitting with good posture is still important as a bad sitting posture can also cause lower back pain and discomfort.
5. Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Chances are you have seen this slogan somewhere – “Sitting is the New Smoking.” Unfortunately, this slogan is misleading as it makes people believe that standing is healthier when it is not.
In fact, several studies show that sitting or standing too much raises your odds of developing heart-related problems. For example, prolonged standing is linked to higher risks of developing heart diseases like Ischemic Heart Disease or Carotid Atherosclerosis.
So you’re not doing yourself any favors if you are standing at work to avoid developing heart disease. Instead, you might be raising your chances.
Suppose you want to lower your risk of heart disease. In that case, you should try incorporating movement-based or activity-based options like treadmill desks into your workstation.
6. Varicose Veins and other Vein Problems
Most people know that prolonged standing causes varicose veins.
To those unfamiliar with them, varicose veins, also sometimes called ‘spider veins,’ are enlarged veins that usually appear near the skin, commonly in the legs.
They mainly occur in the legs because of the increased pressure and blood pooling caused by prolonged standing or walking.
Varicose veins are not usually a serious condition. However, they tend to spoil the appearance of your legs due to their threatening looks.
That being said, some studies say varicose veins can lead to more serious problems like:
So if you can avoid varicose veins, it’s wise to do so. However, if you already have varicose veins, there are treatments available like:
- Wearing compression stockings or hosiery.
- Improving lifestyle habits, e.g., avoiding long periods of standing/sitting, exercising, avoiding high heels, etc.
- Medical intervention, e.g., surgery, sclerotherapy, radiofrequency occlusion, etc.
7. Reduced Brain Performance and Task Suitability
According to a 2021 article in Applied Ergonomics, your brain performance at a standing desk is actually less than when you are working in a sitting position.
With that said, some studies still claim that standing desks do not affect the brain performance of most people.
It seems that scientists are divided on the matter. So there is a need for more studies to prove or disprove that standing desks reduce brain performance.
For now, one thing is clear – some tasks are best done on your seat. For example, complex tasks that require precision and stability are more easily done when sitting. These include:
- Problem Solving
On the other hand, some work may be more productive or engaging when done standing. These include:
- Creative thinking.
The key is knowing the difference.
Solutions and Alternatives
Now that we have covered some of the major disadvantages of using standing desks, let’s look at ways to minimize the risks or avoid the dangers of standing desks.
This is necessary because many jobs still need employees to work in a standing position. In addition, many organizations like the International Labor Organization are introducing measures to curb the dangers of standing at work.
So if your work or situation needs you to stand for long periods, try to do at least some of the following:
- Stand on a 16° surface: This reduces the pain and discomfort of standing.
- Have a stool or chair for regular sitting intervals.
- Shift your weight from time to time.
- Alternate each leg onto a footrest of suitable height (at intervals): This can ease the load placed on your lower back by shifting your center of mass.
- Have a worktable of adjustable height: This enables you to stretch your hands comfortably without straining your back, shoulders, and wrists.
- Wear good, comfortable shoes: Good shoes cushion your feet and reduce the discomfort of standing.
- Use floor mats to avoid standing on hard floors: Such mats will cushion your feet and absorb some of your weight. Newton’s third law, anyone?
- Move more and stretch your legs: Adding movement, especially in the legs, can ease some of the pain, swelling, and discomfort caused by standing.
- Maintain good standing posture: While prolonged standing eventually causes health and lower back problems, a bad standing posture will make it happen faster.
- Wear compression hosiery or stockings: These can reduce the swelling, pain, and discomfort of standing. In addition, they also improve the standing experience of people with chronic venous insufficiency.
- Take regular walking breaks.
- Get a treadmill desk .
The slogan, “Sitting is the New Smoking,” is misleading. As previously said, while sitting has its share of problems, so does standing.
Instead, a better and more accurate slogan should be, “Sedentary is the New Smoking.”
Health and safety professionals should educate the public that both prolonged sitting and prolonged standing are unhealthy.
Simply replacing sitting with standing may do more damage in the long run. Therefore, our idea of a healthy workstation needs to expand to include frequent movement, activity, and breaks.
If you ask me, using standing desks to lose weight is a lot like eating poison to lose weight. Sure, you will lose weight, but at the same time, you are poisoning yourself and causing worse problems.