Are standing desks good for you? Maybe not, researchers say

It is widely known that sitting for long hours at your work desk can lead to serious health risks, but research has also revealed that using a standing desk may not be much better.
It is widely known that sitting for long hours at your work desk can lead to serious health risks, but research has also revealed that using a standing desk may not be much better.PHOTO: ST FILE

Is it better to stand or sit at work? Neither, it seems.

It is widely known that sitting for long hours at your work desk can lead to serious health risks, but research has also revealed that doing the opposite - using a standing desk - may not be much better.

According to a CNN report on Wednesday (Oct 3), a study at Harvard University revealed that standing for an hour burned 88 calories - only eight more calories an hour than sitting.

This means that using a standing desk for three hours burns just an extra 24 calories, which is about the same number of calories in a carrot, the study said.

The report also cited a study published last year in the American Journal of Epidemiology that said that people who stand and work have double the risk of heart disease compared to those who sit and work. The study tracked more than 7,000 people over a 12-year period.

Prolonged standing can also lead to swelling of the feet and ankles, and compression of the spine, it said.

In fact, a 2016 meta-analysis of 20 studies conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health found that there is little evidence that standing desks have health benefits.

The studies comprised 2,174 participants from high-income nations including the United States and Britain. The 20 studies used in the meta-analysis were published from 2012.

Researchers found that the quality of evidence was low because the studies were poorly designed and had too few participants.

Using a standing desk may reduce sitting time by as little as 32 minutes a day, Finnish researchers of the 2016 analysis said.

However, it found that walking for just a half hour during one's lunch break could burn an extra 100 calories a day.

Thus, rather than sitting or standing for hours at a stretch, experts believe that it is more important to move about regularly during the day, and also include exercise in one's daily routine.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity found that a five-minute jog or speed walk every hour improves mood and decreases food cravings.

Another 2015 study by the University of Utah also revealed that walking an extra two minutes an hour can offset the hazards of sitting for too long.

And if you have to sit, do so at a 135 degree angle, Cornell University academics have said.

Propping your feet up and practically lying down might be the best way to work, CNN reported.

The position is known as "Keegan's Normal Posture" and has been found to reduce stress on the lower back.