Taking a Stand for Sitting

These days 1 out of every 4 assessments ask about a standing work desk. Standing while working on the computer has become the latest trend in office ergonomics. There are numerous articles, websites, and blogs proclaiming that sitting all day is the equivalent of smoking, eating a box of donuts, or various other unhealthy habits. There are all types of arguments for standing- some warranted, but others make you raise your eyebrows. Having listened to the input from people working in cubicles, I understand their desire to stand throughout the day. I am definitely on-board with the trend. It’s important to note that standing all day is not that great either. We see people in retail and reception who stand all day and they just want to sit. Are you sure you are not just responding to your need to get up regularly to take stretch breaks? Perhaps your discomfort is making you feel like standing is the only option? Have you considered the long term effects standing all day might have on your health?


My first career was hairdressing. When I first started working in a salon, after just a few clients, I was practically running to sit down the first chance that I got. My feet hurt, my back hurt, and my legs felt like they weighed 100 pounds each. I couldn’t wait to get home and kick off my shoes and prop up my feet after a long day. Finally, after several months of standing endless hours, I finally developed what I called “standing muscles”. I could comfortably stand for 4-6 hours with limited sitting breaks. Standing was my only option, like it or not.


This brings me to my first point- standing to work sounds like a really good idea, but according to Cornell University, standing requires 20% more energy than sitting. Additionally, standing can put more strain on your feet and legs. Some employees we see that feel they need a standing work environment tell me that; they needed to sit much more frequently than they thought. Some have even told me that they felt guilty that they couldn’t stand as much as they thought.


Secondly, convenience is something we take for granted, we like convenience. Transitioning from sitting to standing frequently throughout the day could be considered an inconvenience- if it is not easy to use, you are not going to use it long term? According to the Cornell University article, after just one month, standing rapidly declines for employees and they transition back to sitting for the majority or all of the day. This is an important point because there are so many options that offer an option to stand but how convenient are they to use?


So, if you think you want to stand all day, you may want to reconsider, knowing standing is not easy; especially when you are juggling multiple tasks. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit back in your chair and relax! I know, sitting all day is stressful…. That’s why we never recommend that either.


Get educated about sitting and standing by following these helpful tips when working at a computer:

  • Make sure you are supported when you sit, a good chair that fits you well and adjusted properly
  • Support your upper extremities, neck and shoulders when you sit and when you stand
  • Take micro-pauses and mini breaks every hour- stand up, walk around, look for tasks that you can do standing, don’t send the email- go see your coworker, etc.
  • Incorporating stretching with your break- gets the blood flowing!


Trends come and go- something that may seem like a good idea initially, may not be so great in the end. I still have my “standing muscles”, but I also have varicose veins to go with those muscles. Consider the support your body needs to perform all the tasks you do throughout your day. Be smart because a good balance of sitting supported and taking mini breaks and stretching throughout the day is all it takes to become a model work athlete.


Rebecca Sperry
Ergonomic Field Coordinator, CEAS

Reference: http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/CUESitStand.html


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