If you’re an office worker (or you work from home), it’s likely that you’ve thought, “Is standing at work better than sitting?” Most of us spend 7-10 hours per day at a desk or a screen on average, so it’s crucial to know how to support our bodies.
This article will:
- Fully dissect the pros and cons of sitting and standing at work.
- Provide methods to overcome the potential downsides of each.
Whilst you may not have a career with a taxing physical load, you must be aware of your work environment’s impact on productivity and well-being.
Both sitting and standing come with their own drawbacks.
(Related: How High Should A Standing Desk Be?)
Is Sitting At Work Bad For You?
Sitting all day at work is tempting, especially to reserve energy and increase comfort.
Yet, research shows that people who sit for more than eight hours a day without physical activity are at risk of obesity. Other disadvantages to sitting at work include:
- Low blood circulation.
- Cardiovascular issues.
- Increased health risks, such as heart disease, cancers, and diabetes.
- Damage to the hips, back, and spinal discs.
Above: sitting in a slouched position all day is not ideal. Invest in a high-end ergonomic office chair, adjust it properly and pay attention to your posture.
- Comfort during long workdays.
- Less foot pain.
- Promotes a sedentary lifestyle.
- Stiff joints and muscles.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
- Increased risk of weight gain.
- Drowsiness and lowered focus.
Love using your office chair? Remember to change positions regularly and reduce the amount of time you spend crossing your legs.
Is Standing At Work Bad For You?
Many Australian workplaces now offer sit-stand desks, allowing you to create sitting-standing intervals throughout your workday.
- Increase blood circulation by squeezing valves in the leg veins, pushing blood upward toward the heart.
- Improve bowel health by stretching the colon.
- Support your focus and productivity by preventing drowsiness. This study found that workers who use standing vs sitting desks can have as much as a 45% increase in their daily performance.
- Decrease the risk of postural problems with correct screen angles.
- Strengthen leg and core muscles (with proper stance), plus improve balance.
Unfortunately, standing does not alleviate all problems. There is ample evidence that prolonged standing at work can accelerate the onset of fatigue and lead to adverse health outcomes.
If you like to stand all day, be mindful of the following:
- Your leaning habits can place more stress on one side of the body (ensure that you stand balanced, with equal weight on each foot).
- Blood can pool in your lower extremities, causing or exacerbating varicose veins. You may need to wear compression stockings if you suffer from poor circulation.
- The amount of time you stand. Experts recommend standing 3 hours for every 1 hour you sit!
Above: adjustable standing desks are a relatively inexpensive and practical way of improving cognitive ability and increasing productivity.
- Improved blood circulation.
- Stronger muscles (core, glutes, quads).
- Better diaphragmatic support and more profound breathing.
- Better bowel habits.
- Higher alertness and productivity.
- Additional calories burnt.
- Better posture and neck alignment.
- Increased risk of developing or aggravating varicose veins.
- Additional strain placed on the hips, knees, and spine.
- Lower back and neck pain.
- Misalignment of joints if leaning incorrectly.
- Sore feet if not using standing mats or wearing adequate footwear.
(Related: Are Standing Desks Worth It?)
How To Avoid Injuries From Standing.
With proper knowledge, you can take action to mitigate the disadvantages of prolonged standing. Our tips:
Don’t switch from sitting to standing overnight. Professor Jack Callaghan from the University of Waterloo points out, “There is no question a sedentary lifestyle negatively impacts health. But you can’t just all of a sudden take away people’s chairs – because it’s going to cause pain.”
How To Avoid Injuries From Sitting.
For those who prefer to sit at work, there are many actions you can take to support your health.
- Implement an ergonomic setup! A comfortable workspace promotes good posture and health. Read our tips here.
- Increase your activity: Research shows that approximately one hour of physical activity daily can help counteract the effects of sitting too long. Consider finding a local gym near your office and booking 2-3 lunchtime sessions per week.
- Stretch: Consider adding mobility training into your daily routine. Work on joint movement and flexibility for as little as 10 minutes to see results (ideally before bed). You can find tips here.
Consider ways throughout the day that you can increase your activity. We love walking or biking to work (where possible) or taking the stairs instead of escalators.
How Many Calories Do I Burn By Standing?
One of the benefits of standing over sitting is increasing your daily metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn just by living! You can calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) here.
Researchers publishing in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found the below:
- While sitting, subjects burned 80 calories/hour (the same when typing or watching TV).
- While standing, the number of calories burned was only slightly higher at 88 per hour.
- Walking burns 210 calories/hour.
An ideal day would incorporate sitting, standing, and walking on lunch breaks.
Bottom Line On Standing Versus Sitting At Work.
The results are in: neither sitting nor standing for prolonged periods is ideal for physical health. Instead, you must use a combination of both to support your muscles, improve your mobility, and increase your mental well-being.
In addition to using standing desks, you can support your body throughout the workday by:
- Using ergonomic chairs.
- Incorporating accessories like floor mats and additional monitors.
- Creating a welcoming, dedicated workspace.