A standing workstation for your home or office

22 Mar 2013

Can standing desks improve health, or are they just a fad? Joe Martin explains the pros and cons of using a standing desk

Most of us don’t sit in quite the way we should. We slouch or slump in our chairs and may not even have the chair itself configured correctly. We know we’re supposed to keep our backs straight and our knees bent at 90 degrees, but few of us actually bother to do this.

Now, a growing number of people are discarding their chairs entirely and switching to taller desks designed for use while standing – or desks that can be easily switched to suit either position. Users of standing desks claim to have more energy in the office and improved overall health.

It’s a tempting idea – but if you’re thinking of using a standing desk, there are some things you need to know first.

Are you sitting comfortably?

The idea of using a desk while standing up may seem unnatural, but a sedentary lifestyle has been shown by several studies to have long-term health ramifications. A peer-reviewed study by Dr Emma Wilmot of the Diabetes Group at the University of Leicester has found that sitting at a desk all day damages your long-term health regardless of overall fitness. In other words, even if you exercise, eat your five a day and have a balanced lifestyle, sitting for prolonged periods raises the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and several cancers.

Where to buy an upright desk

Major distributors of upright and height-adjustable desks in the UK include HeightAdjustableDesks.com, Back2, Conset and Posturite.

There are postural concerns, too. Sitting down isn’t inherently bad for your back, but you should take regular breaks from your chair. Ensure both your chair and desk are configured for good posture – most people don’t do this, and the result is an increased occurrence of all manner of medical conditions, from RSI to back and neck problems.

Obesity is a problem, too, when you spend all day sitting. Standing desks can help here in a number of ways. Most obviously, standing requires more energy than sitting. On a minute-to-minute basis the difference is small, but multiplied over a full working day the calories you burn off will add up. Simply standing up more can prevent you from gaining weight, if not help you lose it.

The secondary benefits are psychological. Individuals who have switched to standing desks have found themselves approaching their work in a new way.

Using an upright desk can revolutionise the way you work

“It’s definitely changed the way I work,” says Dean Gifford, a software developer who has been using a standing desk for the past year. “When you don’t have to sit down, it feels like less of a heavy decision to walk up to your desk and start on something.”

Staying on your feet also makes it much easier to walk away from the desk, encouraging a more active routine. Those breaks and stretches you never do when you’re sitting down? At a standing desk they become part of the natural rhythm.

Using a standing desk isn’t a magic bullet for workplace health problems, however. “There’s a lot more to computer-related injuries,” warns Dr John Outhwaite, a consultant at the London Orthopaedic Clinic who specialises in workplace injuries. “Things such as the ambient temperature and the way the light falls on the screen can be important,” he claims, as well as the design of hardware and software. If you want to improve your working environment and practices, switching to a standing desk is a start, not an end.

Standing tall

If you’re willing to invest in a standing workstation, you’ll find a good range of options available. Ergo Desktop’s Kangaroo desk stands, for example, sit on top of a standard-sized office desk and raise your monitor and keyboard to standing height, with prices starting at around £300 excluding VAT. Posturite’s sit-stand desks are height-adjustable, letting you move between positions as you see fit; the simplest option costs around £500, while a corner desk will set you back over £1,200.

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