“Sitting Is The New Smoking” – Standing Desks

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Is sitting really the new smoking?  Can standing desks be the answer to this ever growing problem?

Standing Desks

Research has shown that when persons spend more of their day standing, they can reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disease.  James Levine (Endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic) and other Scientists have concluded that a sedentary lifestyle can be detrimental to us in the long run.  Far too many people sit all day then head to the gym and this brief bout of exercise cannot really combat the negative effect of prolonged sitting.

Standing Desks

How can we avoid this though,  when most jobs require extended periods of sitting? .

“The average office worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes sitting each day at his or her desk, some describe the problem with a pithy new phrase that’s undeniably catchy, if somewhat exaggerated “Sitting is the new smoking” (Stromberg, 2014).

The  solution seems to be incorporating other forms of activity into the normal work day such as pacing, standing or any other thing that will keep us moving.

Stromberg (2014) cites 5 benefits of using a standing desk at work:

  1. Reduced risk of obesity
  2. Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and other metabolic problems
  3. Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  4. Reduced risk of cancer
  5. Lower long term mortality risk

Are standing desks really the solution for prolonged sitting at work?   After all, standing all day cannot be good for an individual either because this can lead to another set of problems.  Bahe in his article talks about the 7 things to consider before investing in a standing desk.

  1. The cost
  2. Long days
  3. Foot pain/soreness
  4. Back pain
  5. Lack of privacy
  6. Less focus
  7. You are still inactive


Group of businessman walking and taking stairs

Both Bahe and Stromberg agree that the solution is to find the balance. Splitting the time between standing and sitting seems to be a better solution for this ever growing problem. At the end of the day the most important thing is to move around as often as you can during the work day.

Here are some ways to help you overcome too much sitting at work.  These are things I do as often as I can throughout the day

  1. Park as far away from your office as possible, that way you have to walk a little to get to the office
  2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Seriously if you only have 2 or 3 floors at work you really do not need an elevator.   Every hour (whenever possible) I get up and go up and down a flight of stairs near to my office.
  3. Stand up sometimes when you are answering the phone
  4. Walk to someone’s office to give a message instead of calling or sending an email
  5. Try to get up from your seated position as often as you can during the day
  6. Use part of your lunch time to take a stroll outside or within the building if it is cold

One company that seems to have struck that balance is Varidesk, check them out if you get a chance.



Bahe, M. 7 Reasons Why You Don’t Want a Standing Workstation. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1s2yVY6

Stromberg, J. (2014). Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks.  Retrieved from  http://bit.ly/1g1IdNn




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71 Responses

  1. Grandtrines says:

    Well, you make me smile as well! 🙂 I like the exchange as well. As you know from previous discussions, I like your blog + posts. If memory serves me, this is the only one I have taken issue with.
    AND, I know enough about psychology to know that neither of us will budge. SOME of the drivers of this would be (a) Social Proof and (b) Cognitive Dissonance.

    (a) Social Proof: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_proof
    (b) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    Informally, if you have your heart set on this thing, maybe even fantasizing about it, then you will not likely change your position. And if you have a number of readers voicing how impressive it is (social proof), then that will tend to confirm your position.

    Speaking of which, that also reminds me of the confirmation bias:

    (c) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

    As an aside, the first time I read a “standing desk” article a few years ago, I nearly bought it. I feel embarassed to admit that because some of my training includes the ability to think and reason as “Kamwrex” does. But, I soon dug deeper and found the kinds of commentary I have been referring to….”

    If I had been fantasizing about this item for several years, had spent a number of years of my life working in a standing position and concluding that I like it (which, itself, COULD be circular reasoning also), then chances are good I might have rejected the criticisms. But, as another reviewer described himself, I was “desk agnostic” and, therefore, quite open to the counter-arguments (which I find quite persuasive).

  2. Grandtrines says:

    Grenadines? Really?
    I think we agree about the important of (1) varying position and (2) movement (typically walking, but it could be others).
    And we agree that it is a matter of choice. However, we disagree (probably strongly) about the validity of this article as it is written. So, I will repost a few of the 145 comments on the Lifehacker post from 2011 that I mentioned previously:
    1. The supposed statistics are crap, as elucidated by this exchange:
    (a) Kamwrex: “I’d really like to see what the numerical increase is in risk instead of “fluff” quantification such as “40% increase” and “3 times as likely”.”

    (b) ghirson: “How is “40% increase” and “3 times as likely” NOT numerical?”

    (c) Kamwrex: “It is not numerical in the sense that it doesn’t give us the hard numbers between x and x+40% or x and 3(x). When the say its a 40% increase they are communicating the magnitude of increase between the original and current number, but in fact a 40% increase could be the difference between .001% and .0014%. It is true that is in fact a 40% increase but in absolute numbers the difference is so small that it wouldn’t even be found statistically significant.

    Likewise someone being “3x as likely” to die from sitting than not sitting is communicated in a way to make you think wow… it’s a threefold increase, that’s a lot! Again, that 3x increase could actually be .001% increasing to .003% meaning while it’s true there is a threefold increase in likelihood you might still be more likely to choke on the winning power-ball numbers for your respective state than die from a sitting-related complication.”
    [to be continued in another reply]

    • Grandtrines says:

      [continued from previous entry]

      Kamwrex: “Also, I can come up with spurious relationships too! Service industry countries like the USA have enjoyed a steady increase in life-expectancy every decade for the last century…guess what else workers in service industries do…..sit!

      I can also show you comparative evidence of frequency of sitting in non-human primates and how such length of sitting is directly proportional to the amount of “butt fat” each non-human primate species has. Our butt has literally evolved to sit on by the slow disappearance of a prehensile tail and increased stores of fat on our buttocks to cushion our spine.

      I’d like to look at the average quality of life and average lifespan of manufacturing versus service sector workers. I think you’ll find that service sector workers live longer and have a better overall quality of life.

      …and lastly, we were skinnier 100 years ago because we had to grow our own food and toil to get it. In a roundabout way yes that does mean we sat less, but that would mean that our current health problems are because of increased convenience to food, not because we are sitting.

      Do I think that we have moved to a more sedentary lifestyle? Yes of course I do, but I’d prefer if it were presented in a way that wasn’t as sensational and treated people like they were intelligent.

      And thank you for not recommending a standing desk. Lifehacker LOVES standing desks like hipsters love typewriters.”

      These are only a handful of the replies from an extended discussion. I doubt either one of us will budge on our positions, but I do hope your readers will check out the Lifehacker articles (several of those exist) as well as other sources when they start thinking of a $500 (or more) desk to “fix” the “problem.”

    • LOL…Grenadines you make me smile and I like the exchange….

  3. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog and commented:
    I am a more than a little suspicious of this. It seems like yet another scheme to sell us something else that will end up in the garage sale (the standing desk). I suspect it doesn’t even make a good clothes rack like the unused exercise equipment does.
    Much easier and less expensive: take a few minutes every hour to get up and walk somewhere (at least to the fridge! 🙂 ); punctuate that with stretches from a yoga routine (I use a balance ball + yoga blocks). Forget to do it? Use a timer. (I do that, too, similar to the Pomodoro approach. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique)
    Going outside a few times a day (weather permitting) seems like a good idea also. No expensive gimmicky “standing desk” needed…
    Really, the big issue here with health is DVT consequent to venous stasis, and standing doesn’t help that much if no movement is involved. Movement, walking, and repositioning does help….
    (DVT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_vein_thrombosis)

    • This is something that I feel very strongly about and planning to get one for my home office. I love to stand and work, in fact as a Librarian many of the desks in the public libraries are set up for you to stand or sit at the customer service desks. I get up several times for the day to walk the stairs at work but that is because I have that option. If you read the article you would have seen that the objective is balance and that is why I made mention of a specific desk that can convert from sitting to standing. The problem is people are sitting for too many hours each day and we need to pay more attention to our health. If employers can offer this option at work then they should. Remember this is an option and not set in stone.

      • Grandtrines says:

        I have read your article, and I do understand the points. My issue has to do with general advice that requires buying something expensive that will likely become unused quickly and that is beyond the inexpensive tools that I mentioned to solve the problem.
        That said, if your particular workflow has routinely included a similar positioning for a number of years, and you have become adapted to that, then this might be a better option for you individually. But, I still stick by my original comment.

        • Grandtrines I am not saying that what you are saying is not true. In fact we are saying some of the same things.Thank you for taking the time to continue this meaningful conversation, I appreciate it. I would never want you to change your comment because that is what makes life interesting…we think differently. Just like any other piece of equipment that any of us purchase for better health, it is up to us to decide if we are going to use it for the purpose intended.

          • Grandtrines says:

            Since you are a librarian, I know you appreciate the importance of “fact checking” and “research.”
            That said, please check out the 145 replies protesting on this Lifehacker article particularly protesting the Infographic presented in both your article and that one as well as the Standing Desk concept. (They make my argument far better than I can individually.) Again, you are right that many of our points are in common, especially that you individually may be well suited to such an item. But, the 145 replies from five years ago really do make a number of important points:


          • Grenadines as I said before we pretty much agreed on almost all the points. As in everything else it is a matter of opinion and choice. I have been standing at a desk for years at intervals throughout the day. So again balance is key and it will depend on the individual. Not to worry I checked my facts and I still stand by what I say. Hence the reason I gave all sides of the story and settled on balance being the key. A little standing, a little sitting and a little moving around throughout the day.

  4. Sara says:

    I love that so many offices are encouraging people to use the standing desk. I really need to see if I can switch to one of those.

  5. To be honest I have never really given it much thought but thanks for this post as now I can implement some changes in my work life. Our boss has a standing desk and I thought it would be tiring but apparently its better for you

  6. Holly says:

    Sitting all day is definitely really bad for your health, which is why it’s so important to get up from your work at least once an hour and take a little walk around.

  7. Amy Jones says:

    I spend way too much sitting during the day and have been thinking about investing in a standing desk

  8. i don’t think i can work with my computer in a standing but this would benefit for some.

  9. We have standing desks at work! They are great and you can always lower them to sit for a while throughout the day 🙂

  10. I think it would be really hard to stand at my desk all day. I honestly love working with my laptop on the couch and my feet up in the lounger. 🙂

  11. karyld2016 says:

    This is a great post! I already know the look I’ll get if I ask for one of these in my office 🙂 But I do try to get up and walk around every hour or so. Even if it’s just to the restroom, it’s still moving! You don’t realize how much you sit until it’s the end of the day…and you’ve barely moved

  12. Rosey says:

    I thnk these are a great idea. I would love to have one.

  13. patranila says:

    I love standing desks and plan to create one at home with a bar table. Right now, I use my kitchen counter from time to time.

  14. Ana says:

    I do take regular walks around but then spend long hours sitting, I should start standing more

  15. This is very interesting, I’m thinking now I should start standing more!

  16. Esme Sy says:

    I have never heard of this until today. Now, I want a standing desk!

  17. Angela Milnes says:

    Never heard of this and I would not do well and have to stand up at a computer for so long with my health but it is a interesting concept.

  18. Best solution is to have a standing desk which you can convert into sitting one. It should be balance so that people can adjust and work comf.

  19. Very informative post! Thanks for the awesome tips.
    Indeed a nice motivation.

  20. Liz Mays says:

    I guess as with everything, too much is too much! I’m going to take this opportunity to get up out of my own chair and move around!

  21. Maddie says:

    I think there need to be desks to where tou can easily go between sitting or standing so you’re not doing either for too long. Otherwise, you have great tips to be more active on the job.

  22. I am diabetic and work a sedentary job as a quality analyst, sitting in front of a computer listening to agents’ calls for 8 hours. I stand up and walk once in a while, do a lot of stretching and do power naps. This job has taken such a big toll on my health. I hope our company would invest in desk with options on whether you’d like to sit or stand for a few hours at a time.

    • Eileen I am so sorry to hear but also happy to see that you are taking steps to lesson the effects of sitting all day. Have you spoken to management about it? perhaps you can put something together and present to them, you never know

  23. michelle says:

    my grandpa has been installing a lot of stand up desk for his coworkers and has wanted to get me one as well. sometimes i blog with my computer on top of the dryer so that i can stand up to do it

  24. Ana De Jesus says:

    I had never thought of it like this but you are right! I am in more pain when I sit for long periods of time than when I am standing.

  25. I have a standing desk and love it. I get tired of sitting all day long while I’m working on my computer.

  26. angie says:

    saw on a show how to move around at desk even exercise

  27. Elizabeth O. says:

    If your work includes you sitting on a desk in front of a computer for 8 hours, then you should definitely make sure you’re active outside of the office. This is something that we should do in order to make sure that we’re not at risk.

    • Elizabeth I agree with you. Not only outside of the office but while you are at work (during that 8 hours) you have to be innovative and find ways to get up as often as the job will allow

  28. Amber says:

    These are great tips. It’s funny I was just thinking that I had been sitting too long today and so I decided I needed to go for a walk. I also have a Fitbit and my goal this year is to start making sure I make my step goal.

  29. Great post! I use all 6 things mentioned in your post, because health is essential in our everyday life 😉

  30. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    It’s a proven fact that you burn more calories standing than sitting 🙂

  31. gcottraux says:

    I have a standing desk and love it; I was having ergonomic issues at work and was able to get a new chair and an adjustable desk. I leave it at standing height most of the time. What I’d like to have is a treadmill desk.