SCIENCE

Sorry Folks, But Standing Desks May Not Make You Any Healthier

Standing means being still, and that's a bad thing.
A new study finds that standing, rather than sitting, at a desk may not improve health.
A new study finds that standing, rather than sitting, at a desk may not improve health.

You've probably heard that keeping your rear planted in your desk chair for hours on end may be as much of a health hazard today as smoking was for previous generations.

Prolonged sitting has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and even premature death. But at least we have standing desks to combat the problem, right? Maybe not.

According to a new study, published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology on Oct. 9, standing at your desk may be no better than sitting, and that's because it's the being still that has the negative impact on your health. (Maybe it's time to replace your standing desk with a treadmill desk.)

For the study, the researchers monitored the behavior and health of 3,720 men and 1,412 women over the course of 16 years. Beginning in 1985, the London-based volunteers recorded how many hours a week they spent sitting.

At the end of the 16-year period, the researchers tallied the hours and then checked the National Health Service Central Registry and determined that 450 of the participants had died. But the researchers found no correlation between time spent sitting and mortality.

The findings challenge previous research showing that sitting for long periods can shorten your lifespan even if you exercise often.

"Any stationary posture where energy expenditure is low may be detrimental to health, be it sitting or standing. The results cast doubt on the benefits of sit-stand work stations," Dr. Melvyn Hillsdon, associate professor of Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter in England and a co-author of the study, said in a written statement.

The researchers concluded that sitting itself won't kill you. Rather, a sedentary lifestyle in general may be what's harmful to your health. 

"Research is not black and white, and if a single study finds X or Y that doesn’t mean that this is the truth we should all go along with," Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis, associate professor at the University of Sydney in Australia and a co-author of the study, said in an email. "The recent study findings are in disagreement with the rest of the literature and there must be a reason for this."

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