Last month, we discussed criticisms surrounding claims that standing desks improve the health of users. Supporters of standing desks often point to studies that claim remaining seated for prolonged periods of time—as most office workers do—has negative impacts on our health.
The proposed solution? Stand at your desk! But as discussed, there is little to no evidence that standing versus sitting has any actual health benefits. Instead, health experts recommend getting up and moving around periodically throughout the day.
In other words, it’s not whether we are standing or sitting, it’s whether we are moving or remaining sedentary, that may make the difference.
A New Look at the Standing Desk Debate
Before you throw out your standing desk, consider this recent BBC article discussing research conducted by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS). Researchers, led by Loughborough University and experts from Leicester, studied 146 NHS staff members who held primarily sedentary jobs, according to the BBC.
Two groups were established: a group of 77 who were given height-adjustable workstations, or sit-stand desks, and a group of 69 with standard desks—the control group. The amount of time employees in each group spent sitting was measured at the beginning of the study and in 3-, 6-, and 12-month intervals.
“At the start of the study, overall sitting time was 9.7 hours per day. Over the course of the experiment, sitting time was lower by 50.62 minutes per day at three months, 64.4 minutes per day at six months, and 82.39 minutes per day at 12 months,” reports the BBC.
Results Thorough, But Inconclusive
So, aside from the fact that having a standing desk results in less time sitting, what were the benefits—if any—of the new desks? According to the BBC, questionnaire responses from participants suggest that employees who had used the sit-stand desks were less anxious and reported an improved quality of life.
Still, the study was not able to demonstrate any notable changes in job satisfaction, cognitive function, or sickness absence. The BBC also noted that the authors of the study were not prepared to make any conclusions regarding health benefits of standing versus sitting.
So, while there remains no conclusive evidence on the health benefits of the trendy standing desks, the BBC and the NHS study suggest there may be some potential mental and/or mood benefits.