Ergonomically indecisive workers might want to sit down. (Or stand—pick your poison!)
Given all of the conflicting reports presenting the many ways excess sitting or standing will kill you—is sitting the new smoking? does prolonged standing dangerously enlarge your veins?—the sit-stand desk (SSD) have been adopted by many companies as the answer to office posture problem.
But do they really improve your health or, as some studies and marketing campaigns have implied, shrink your waistline? Researchers analyzed 53 different scientific studies about SSDs and published their findings on how they impact behavior, physiological, work performance, psychological, discomfort, and posture in the July 2019 issue of Applied Ergonomics.
“When sit-stand desks first hit the market, a lot of people grabbed hold of them as a way to lose weight,” April Chambers, a research assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Bioengineering, told Fast Company.
Unfortunately, Chambers said that “the science is pretty clear”—a sit-stand desk isn’t going to help you drop a pant size. For example, one study found that people who stood at a desk for six hours a day only lost 54 more calories daily than when they sat.
“When they first hit the market, I think that certain areas of research just had higher expectations that they could use these [standing desk] devices for weight loss and things like that — and they haven’t lived up to that,” Chambers told MarketWatch. “But I don’t think that’s necessarily what they were made for, and I think there are other benefits that have been under-explored.”
But people using sit-stand desks only experienced marginal improvements in other areas, too.
“While we didn’t really see a detriment to mood or health or productivity, we didn’t see much improvement, either,” Chambers told MarketWatch.
According to Nancy Baker, an associate professor in the Tufts Department of Occupational Therapy who also authored the analysis, “The study found only minimal impacts on any of those areas, the strongest being changes in behavior and discomfort.”