You may have noticed the recent backlash against standing desks, with a series of clickbait-y headlines claiming that standing while you work does not have the benefits science has long reported. These articles are based on a recent Cochrane review, which looked at 20 studies on workplace interventions to reduce sitting time.
What Does the Cochrane Review Actually Say?
If you look at the actual conclusions of the review, you’ll see that the studies the researchers looked at are not about the health effects of using a height-adjustable desk; they are studies on the effectiveness of workplace interventions that aim to reduce overall sitting time. That is, the question the Cochrane researchers were trying to answer was whether encouraging workers to sit less has any effect on the amount of time they choose to spend in their chairs. Their conclusion was that they may not--basically, programs enacted to get workers out of their chairs often may not succeed. While this is disappointing news, it is very different from the false conclusion, reported by so many media outlets, that standing desks don’t provide any benefits. All Cochrane is saying, really, is that you have to actually use a standing desk in order to receive the benefits of standing.
This is the same as saying that you have to actually eat the spinach you buy in order to absorb the nutrients it contains. Of course you do. Keeping spinach in your fridge has no health benefits if you don’t consume it, the same way a gym membership won’t build muscle mass if you don’t go to the gym. It’s unfortunate that the simple and obvious point -- that you have to use your standing desk if you want to reap the benefits of standing -- has gotten lost in all this hype and misinformation.
What Does the Science Actually Say?
The real truth about the science behind standing desks is this: numerous, repeated, peer reviewed studies have clearly shown that alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day provides a host of significant health benefits, including increased calorie burn; a reduction in the risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, metabolic syndrome, and cancer; improved circulation; alleviation of musculoskeletal pain; and improved energy, focus, creativity, collaboration, and productivity. You simply have to make the choice to stand for at least 10 minutes out of every hour.
There are numerous affordable standing desks available, as well as products like stand up laptop desks, keyboard platforms, and monitor risers, that will allow you to take enjoy the health and productivity benefits of standing without breaking the bank. The science is in, and has been for years: standing works.