Is the standing workstation better than a sitting one?
As an ergonomics provider, we are often asked by clients which is better, a Sit or Stand workstation? It is understandable for many people to get tired of sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day and want to change things up. Also recently published studies have talked about how sitting is killing us and has put people on notice.
Sitting isn’t new, office/workstation environments have been doing this for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I am sure people didn’t come to this conclusion based the fact they didn’t try standing and doing their work, but they felt the benefits of sitting was more conducive office/clerical work. Fast forward to today, and I am finding more people asking to stand at their workstations because it is a “healthier” option. The thing is there is a “but” to this belief.
The dangers of sitting for prolonged periods of time is more about the static postures. Our body functions best when moving, it improves blood flow, strength, and balance. Static postures on the other hand contributes to poor circulation and muscle weakness. This combined with a poor posture leads to the many aches and pains we experience from prolonged seated postures.
Standing postures reduce pressures in the spine when compared to sitting and when an individual is set up correctly, can encourage proper spinal alignment without any exterior support. The “but”, related to standing postures, is related to many of the same issues you experience with sitting and maybe a little more. Static standing postures, tax the circulatory system due the need to move blood from our lower body to the heart. Also people often experience increased foot pain and back pain with extended standing.
So if sitting is bad for you, and standing is bad for you, what do you do? The main thing that people need to focus on is the static posture. I only recommend standing workstation with people who have pre-existing back issues and only get relief from pain with standing vs. sitting. Most healthy individuals can tolerate a sitting posture without any long-term effects as long as the workstation is set-up properly and they take frequent breaks to move and stretch. Ideally I think a sit-to-stand workstation would fit the bill nicely, because it encourages people to frequently change their posture. This is not an inexpensive solution at $500+, but it is an alternative for people who want to split their time sitting and standing.
Overall if you are healthy, a standing workstation is not necessary. Focus on taking a micro-stretch break every 30 minutes to an hour, to help address the static postures and you can help improve your health around your sitting postures.