Are Standing Desks a Sham?

Marie Donlon

While standing and treadmill desks in the office are considered to be better for employees than prolonged sitting, researchers from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland suggest that there is little evidence to support that claim, calling it marketing-speak in a new study.

Investigating the impact of prolonged sitting on workers in the software industry, researchers looked at factors such as physical activity, stress, mental alertness and musculoskeletal strain and determined that there weren’t any clear-cut physical benefits to standing workstations.

“The findings of this study suggest that the usage of standing instead of sitting workstations results in only modest promotions of physical activity," the team reported.

Among the noted benefits were increased heart rate (by 4.2 beats per minute) and a few extra calories (6.1 kilocalories per hour) burned. Yet, those benefits would have to be weighed against the risk of lower back problems and varicose veins commonly affecting those who stand for long periods of time, according to researchers.

The team also stated that the workstation design "does not have an effect on mental alertness." Likewise, workers didn’t report an improvement in posture as a result of working at a standing workstation.

The study is published in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations