Are sit stand desks worth it? We design and sell sit stand desks, so what we say may surprise you. In our view, buying a sit stand desk is not for everyone.
For sure, sit stand desks (also called standing desks) bring health benefits to most people, if used consistently.
Studies have shown that using standing desks can help you alleviate back and neck discomfort, reduce blood sugar levels and increase metabolism.
However, there is some truth to articles like these as well, which says standing desks may be overhyped by the media.
This is usually because many sit stand desk users aren’t using them properly.
When you underuse standing desks, you don’t receive the full benefits. And when you overuse them, for instance by standing too much, you could experience leg fatigue and other issues.
It’s important to strike a balance between sitting and standing.
The key is to understand that a standing desk is only a tool to introduce movement into your day. And it is the only tool that’s able to do that without disrupting your work.
Why is movement at work necessary?
People are not made to remain in the same position for long periods at a time. If you sit hunched at your chair, typing away for hours on end, your muscles will become underused in some areas and overused in others.
After some time, your underused muscles will shorten and weaken. This is what causes the backaches and pains that many office workers are suffering from.
So how do you decide if sit stand desks are worth it for you? We suggest you look at 3 things:
- Does your job require you to sit for long periods of time?
- Do you have a health condition which requires you to be more active?
- If you do get a sit stand desk, are you determined to use it consistently?
Does your job require you to sit for long periods of time?
Do you have to spend long periods of time seated at your computer?
Many users come to standing desks because they work long hours (eg. traders, lawyers or designers). They have no choice but to work till late evening, seated in front of multiple screens.
Other than the musculoskeletal problems of spending too long sitting in front of your screen, like back and neck pain, your other body parts such as your heart and pancreas are also suffering in silence.
If this the case for you, the activity and ergonomics introduced by sit stand desks could help you tremendously.
A standing desk will help you raise your screens and paperwork up and down, so you can sit or stand at work, without disrupting your work. This can help you maintain a good level of movement throughout a long day.
A standing desk with ergonomic features will also enable you to adjust for better posture:
- Adjustable arms for screens. You can adjust your screen so that your eye is at the top ½ of the screen and your head is slightly tilted forward to your screen. This will prevent you from hunching forward and your neck from straining.
- Tiltable screen. You can tilt your screen up, down, left or right to keep your eyes, neck and shoulder comfortable, and avoid screen glare.
On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough not to have to spend the majority of your work day at your desk, you may not require sit stand capability for your desk.
Do you have a health condition which requires you to be more active?
There are two possible of health conditions which could lead you to want to work in more activity into your day.
Type 1: Musculoskeletal problems
Do you have lower back pain?
Back pain is a real problem for many office workers. In fact, up to 80% of Singaporeans will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Sitting for too long with poor posture is one of the most common factors leading to lower back pain. This is because sitting puts 90% more pressure on your back compared to standing, according to the Cornell University Department of Ergonomics.
If this sounds like you, you’ll be happy to know that regularly using standing desks can reduce lower back pain as well as fatigue.
In an Australian study, researchers compared office workers who used a stand up desk converter every 30 minutes against those who were seated only.
They found a significant reduction of 32% for lower back pain and 22% for overall tiredness in those who had the option to use a sit stand desk.
Type 2: Metabolic syndrome
Almost 1/3 of US adults suffer from metabolic conditions. It’s also increasingly common in Singapore.
Metabolic conditions include high blood glucose levels, increased blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol of triglyceride levels.
If you have one or more metabolic conditions, you are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
According to a Diabetologia study, a sedentary lifestyle leads to a 39% increased risk of metabolic syndrome and a 22% increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The same study also showed that breaking up sedentary sitting periods with short standing or walking stints can help reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
The simple fact is that you’ll need to modify your lifestyle aggressively to delay or prevent the development of health problems.
Other than commonly prescribed actions such as changing your diet, quitting smoking and exercising to maintain a healthy weight, health experts also recommend incorporating low-intensity activity throughout your work day.
This could include walking and standing, which is obviously much easier to do when you have a standing desk around.
If you get a sit stand desk, are you determined to use it consistently?
Like any other item that’s bought with good intentions, a sit stand desk will become a white elephant if it’s unused.
There are 3 things you can do to make sure that your resolution to adopt a healthy lifestyle does not become a flash in the pan.
1. Select a sit stand desk that is easy for you to use.
This could include:
- Electric desk height adjustment. The greater ease of use means you are more likely to adjust the desk often.
- Large desk area. You should have sufficient surface area to place all the equipment you need for work. This could be your keyboard, mouse, note pad or even an entire laptop.
- Cable management. Your desk should have some form of cable management, so that the cables don’t get caught when it’s adjusted.
A good option for you to consider will be the Altizen Active, which is capable of converting your existing table into a motorised sit stand desk within seconds.
It has one of the largest work surface areas amongst sit stand converters on the market. It also comes with integrated cable management to keep your desk tidy.
2. Gradually cultivate the habit of using a sit stand desk.
UK public health authorities have recommended a guideline of standing 4 hours per day. This is about 50% of your desk time in a typical 8 hour work day.
But just like training for a marathon, you’ll want to build up your standing time gradually.
To create a habit, you can start with 1 hour seated, 20 minutes standing and 2 minutes getting up from your desk and walking. Rinse and repeat throughout your day and slowly get your standing time over the course of a month.
3. Be consistent.
On average, it takes more than 2 months before any new behaviour becomes a habit. There is an adjustment period to changes and new behaviour.
So before changing your posture becomes a habit, get some help to consciously build this behaviour into your work day.
You could use a reminder system. This could be a simple alarm set on your handphone every time you want to change your posture.
Alternatively, you can get a smart standing desk like the Altizen Pro which tracks and reminds you to sit/stand, based on your presence in front of the desk.
So, are sit stand desks worth it?
A good sit stand desk is an investment. Whether or not you find a sit stand desks worth it depends on your circumstances.
If you are not at your desk most of the day or if you know you will not keep at using one consistently, it’s best to save your dollars for something else.
In such cases, there are other things you can do to keep active at work. Have walking meetings or set a timer on your handphone to remind you to get up.
However, if you spend long periods of time behind your screen, have or are at risk of a metabolic health condition, there’s really no better way to get healthier in the office.