Standing desks may be the biggest development in office furniture since chairs on wheels. But is working on your feet really better than sitting? Not necessarily, says Alan Hedge, PhD, ergonomics researcher and professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University. Moderation is key.
The popularity of standing desks is not surprising. Sitting for long hours – the way most people work at a traditional desk – has been linked to a host of health problems, including joint pain and stiffness, obesity, cardiovascular disease and perhaps even cancer.
But there are risks that come with standing for long periods, too. It increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, because your heart has to work against gravity to keep blood flowing up from your feet, says Hedge. And it’s hard on your joints. “After about 30 minutes of standing, you start to assume an awkward posture that increases the risk of musculoskeletal problems,” he says.
The solution? Simply make it a point to combine sitting and standing with movement throughout the workday, says Hedge. His own research has shown the best combination is sitting for 20 minutes, standing for eight and moving for two. If that’s not practical, get up every 20 or 30 minutes to walk.
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