Negatives of Standing Desks

Although standing definitely has  a number of benefits over sitting all day–such as increased circulation, increased body movement (burning calories), and less back and neck strain–there are some downsides to standing for long periods of time.

The most obvious downsides are apparent within a few hours of switching to a standing desk: a sore lower back and feet. Your body has been used to sitting for a good chunk of the day, and it takes some time to train your body to get used to a new posture. Beyond that though, there are some things to watch out for when spending extended chunks of your day on your feet:

  • Swelling of the legs and feet, potentially leading to varicose veins, which can be offset by walking around every so often to help circulation, or by mixing your standing with a few sitting breaks throughout the day
  • Stiffness in the neck and shoulders, which can be mitigated by making sure that your standing desk, mouse, monitor, etc., are all set at a proper level in relation to your height. Make sure that your monitor is set just a bit below your sight level if you are looking straight ahead, and that you don’t have to reach in an unnatural fashion out of your way or up/down to reach your mouse

The gist of the matter is that although there are some drawbacks, most of them are quite preventable, and standing is definitely the way to go over sitting.

The way I avoid most of the potential pitfalls of long periods of standing is to keep a chair nearby (along with a normal height desk is at all possible), to sit in and relax my body whenever I get fatigued or am about to do a certain type of activity where standing might actually interfere with the process (reading long passages, watching video clips and podcasts, etc.). A good standing mat and comfortable footwear is also essential, and can save your muscles and joints a lot of wear.

More information can be found on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety web site, where they go into depth about the potential risks associated with standing at the workplace (although not necessarily in relation to working at standing desks).

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