Standing desks may not be the wellbeing panacea we’ve been led to believe

Regular readers will know that we’ve been banging this particular drum for some time (see below), but new research confirms that sitting may not actually be the ‘new smoking’ and standing desks may not be the panacea we’ve been led to believe. A new study published in the journal Ergonomics confirms that standing at a workstation for prolonged periods of computer work can lead to ‘discomfort and deteriorating mental reactiveness’ which in turn can lead to a range of health problems and reduced productivity.  As usual, the nuances and limitations of this research have been ignored in the reporting of the study so that now standing desks are seen as a problem when instead they’re a good potential solution as part of a workplace culture that encourages people to move and shift posture more frequently.

“Prolonged standing discomfort increased (all body areas), reaction time and mental state deteriorated while creative problem-solving improved,” the researchers write in the new study. “Prolonged standing should be undertaken with caution.”

For the new study, conducted by researchers at Curtin University in Australia, a small sample of 20 people were observed during two hours of standing computer work. The researchers examined levels of discomfort and cognitive function, along with muscle fatigue, movement, lower limb swelling and mental state during the study.

Over time, the researchers report, discomfort increased in all body areas, and the participants’ mental state started to slow after about 75 minutes. However, ‘creative decision making’ seemed to improve with the use of standing desks.

What we’ve said and reported before: