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Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk 312

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Chris Bowlby reports at BBC that medical research has been building up for a while now, suggesting constant sitting is harming our health — potentially causing cardiovascular problems or vulnerability to diabetes. Advocates of sit-stand desks say more standing would benefit not only health, but also workers' energy and creativity. Some big organizations and companies are beginning to look seriously at reducing 'prolonged sitting' among office workers. 'It's becoming more well known that long periods of sedentary behavior has an adverse effect on health,' says GE engineer Jonathan McGregor, 'so we're looking at bringing in standing desks.' The whole concept of sitting as the norm in workplaces is a recent innovation, points out Jeremy Myerson, professor of design at the Royal College of Art. 'If you look at the late 19th Century,' he says, Victorian clerks could stand at their desks and 'moved around a lot more'. 'It's possible to look back at the industrial office of the past 100 years or so as some kind of weird aberration in a 1,000-year continuum of work where we've always moved around.' What changed things in the 20th Century was 'Taylorism' — time and motion studies applied to office work. 'It's much easier to supervise and control people when they're sitting down,' says Myerson. What might finally change things is if the evidence becomes overwhelming, the health costs rise, and stopping employees from sitting too much becomes part of an employer's legal duty of care. 'If what we are creating are environments where people are not going to be terribly healthy and are suffering from diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes,' says Prof Alexi Marmot, a specialist on workplace design, 'it's highly unlikely the organization benefits in any way.'"
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Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk

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  • by LQ ( 188043 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:10AM (#46777947)
    Not with my knees.
  • Your feet would get sore

    • No. Tall chairs exist. We used them all the time at our benches in the research labs. Part of the time you stand, part of the time you sit. Whichever is comfortable and works with your current activity.

      • Some progressive offices have desks that can be raised or lowered with a little motor, so you can sit and then stand when you feel like it.

        Typically the guys in the office would sit all morning and stand for part of the afternoon.

      • No. Tall chairs exist. We used them all the time at our benches in the research labs. Part of the time you stand, part of the time you sit. Whichever is comfortable and works with your current activity.

        Personally I'd love this. I always prefer to sit "up high" anyway, like a tall "bar" or restaurant stool. Sitting all day long is definitely not healthy but at least with these it's easy to go back and forth.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

      by cplusplus ( 782679 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @09:51AM (#46778653) Journal
      As someone who has been standing at a desk for the last 2+ years (programming), I can attest that a really good foam floor mat helps a lot. They make some specifically for standing desks that are quite comfortable. Standing on it in your socks actually feels pretty good. It does take a couple weeks to get used to standing most of the day.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:15AM (#46777979)

    ...when the main problem isn't really sitting down, but being STILL in the same position hour after hour.

    • by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:37AM (#46778125)
      Indeed. On the rare occasion I have to man a register at work, within an hour, my back is spasming, and my legs are stocking up and getting stiff. I can work all day out on the floor stocking, lifting heavy cases, kneeling, getting up, up and down ladders with no problem, but standing in one place for an hour is brutal. I suppose if I had to do it more my body would adapt to standing still eventually, but it would be a miserable transition.
      • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:44AM (#46778165)

        Yeah, standing at the register all day was rough on my body at 16... I can't imagine how my [ahem] slightly older frame would deal with it. Back then I was a "stock boy" and was much more comfortable doing the manual labor than the standing-in-one-place routine of register duty.

        • by Reapy ( 688651 )

          I recall continual sore feet all summer from my walmart job at around 19 years old, I can't imagine what this would do to me now.

      • We got standing desks a few weeks ago. I stand for a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon but sit for lunch. I find that it works best to shift slowly from foot to foot and rock back and forth a bit. I also switch up my stance between wide and narrow and even stand on one leg now and again. You might thing that sounds distracting but I feel more focused while working than I do sitting down.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

      And the links to your peer-reviewed studies are... where?

    • ...when the main problem isn't really sitting down, but being STILL in the same position hour after hour.

      This is why it's not a "standing desk" but a "sit-stand desk". The idea is that you alternate between sitting and standing, changing position every hour or two.

    • You could install a threadmill behind your desk.

    • by s0nicfreak ( 615390 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @10:16AM (#46778837) Journal
      Yep. The problem is the "work day" not the desks. It doesn't matter if you spend those hours sitting, standing, or switching between sitting and standing because you're going to be sitting or standing at the same desk, in a similar position (or in two positions) all day every day. .

      I think we need to let go of the idea that jobs must be done from 9 - 5. Let people telecommute and get their work done whenever is best for them. A person can go biking, then sit in a park and do work one day; take a walk to starbucks and work from there the next; then spend the day playing with their kids and do their work at night, sitting in their bed. I don't understand why, despite the fact that technology makes this possible (and the fact that most hourly jobs can now be replaced with computers and/or machines, or are outsourced) we switched to treating salaried jobs the same as hourly jobs, where you get paid because you are there at your designated time rather than because you get your work done.
      • I would love this but that is way too progressive for the US with its masochistic corporate culture where 40 hours/week is slacking and people don't use up their tiny amount of vacation days.
      • by greywire ( 78262 )

        I agree to some extent about the 9 - 5 thing being in many ways bad.

        I do exactly what you describe a few days a week.

        The problem is that this makes it very hard to properly communicate with other people in your job setting. Nobody knows reliably when other people will be available, whether its for a meeting, or just to get some little bit of information. It works great if you are on a self directed task that lasts for the whole "day" and nobody needs you for anything. It sucks if you need 3 or 4 people t

    • Yeap. I worked a summer on a sorting line in a recycling facility. Standing still on hard flooring is brutal. Even adding rubber mats didn't help a ton, and good shoes weren't really an option since we needed steel toed boots.

      The thing that helped the most? Dancing. We put on music and danced while we sorted and it was light years better than just standing still.
  • by evanh ( 627108 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:19AM (#46778005)

    Doing some full stride walking every day is the bees-nees!

    Standing isn't going to give you anything more than sore feet.

  • Seriously, I'm a programmer at least in part because I want to be as comfortable as possible during work. It's not a huge reason but it's a reason non the less. If I in any way liked the idea of physical discomfort during work I would have gone to do construction or something else instead of programming (the pressure and responsibility as a programmer/designer in a small or medium sized company is insane, you really need to like this job to do it).
    • "Fuckin' A!" []

    • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @09:34AM (#46778529)

      I do development and I work a standing desk (and for a couple of years did a walking desk when I worked at home). I'm actually vastly more comfortable not just at work now but in the rest of my life since switching:

      - issues I had with sciatica went away
      - I am in better shape/have more endurance & energy
      - I sleep better
      - I used to feel like shit if I went on a 10 hour coding binge (sluggish and exhausted) but now I just feel pretty much normal

      It's only uncomfortable at first, but once you figure out good shoes to wear, good anti-fatigue mats to use and good posture it's much MUCH more comfortable (at least in my experience) and makes your non-work life better as well.

      At my office we have 5 people in our engineering team (some IT, some developers) who use standing desks and a few more who are considering making the switch. The oldest stander is me (42) so it's not just something 20-somethings can do.

      • Where is this? Because I want to stay far away.

        I'm starting to think I need to look for an entirely new profession. First they stuck us in open-plan work environments where I'm utterly incapable of concentrating, now they want me to stand up all day? Go ask a supermarket cashier how comfortable that is. Pretty soon I'm going to be totally unable to produce anything at work.

      • I used to work dsl support in a call center. I was in my early 30s and had recently had back injury just sitting all day irritated it. My co-workers thought it was funny seeing me pace around my little cubical like a caged lion at first. I would put my foot up on the divider and stretch, do squats, and a bunch of other things. They transfered a girl to the team that did some kind of pilates and soon the entire team was doing desk exercises. Occasionally they would refer to us as team yoga, all I can say is

  • victorian clerks.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 )

    had to move around.
    they had no choice, really. they had to ferry around small slips of paper and cards.

    they had a boss who sat behind a desk in a comfy chair though, smoking a cigar while his secretary ferried him scotch.

    my reasoning is actually that all desktop work chairs just suck ass. a 10 dollar one piece plastic chair beats all of them - your ass doesn't sweat, you can lean on them, they don't roll out under you - they don't roll around their axis(this one is particularly annoying because WHO THE FUCK

    • by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:33AM (#46778097) Journal

      The whole hierarchy of office chairs has always baffled me. You have three general classifications of chairs (and they're usually labelled as such at the store): Executive, Manager, and Secretary. The Secretary chair always sucks. It's the cheapest model, doesn't usually have arms, has thin or no padding, and it's flimsy. The Manager chair is the most comfortable. It's ergonomic, has adjustable armrests, lumber support, etc. The Executive chair, which should be the most luxurious, is almost always the most uncomfortable but it's always covered in slippery leather. Other than that, it's straight-backed, never high enough for the desk, and heavy.

      It makes no sense that the degree of comfortableness that you are allowed to have is actually a class system in a modern office. I get that a business owner wants to control costs and expensive chairs are expensive. But wouldn't you want your employees to be as comfortable and healthy as your budget will allow? Why is a secretary less deserving of arm rests or lumber support than a manager?

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @09:36AM (#46778539)

        I think you're over thinking this. Executive, Manager, and Secretary are just the names for styles of chairs, not some kind of hierarchy or (current) intended use.

        Secretary chairs, I believe, are not named for the person currently known as an administrative assistant, but for the piece of furniture called a secretary. A secretary is a tall cabinet, the lower part is drawers, the upper part has glassed doors to display knick-knacks, china, whatever, and in between is a fold-down panel that makes a desk. This piece of furniture would be prominent in a house. When a person wanted to write a letter, etc, they would drag a small, lightweight stool to the secretary and fold down the desk.

        In the days when most people worked in factories, the only person with a desk was the manager. Hence, a 'manager' chair is basically any desk chair.

        The executive chair is mostly to show that the person sitting in it is important, hence the leather.

      • No no no the "task chair" has no arms and is small and flimsy. The manager chair has arm rests, etc. I always took this to mean that the arm rest interfered with tasks getting done and thus it was OK for the manager to have them.
      • The Executive chair, which should be the most luxurious, is almost always the most uncomfortable but it's always covered in slippery leather.

        Clearly, the Executive chair is just for show, since he'll be out at the golf course all day anyway.

    • But, everyone aspired to be that cigar smoking boss, so everyone getting "comfy" chairs was progress, right?

    • I inherited a cushioned rolling chair when I inherited my desk, and it was awful. It was heavy and bulky, which is a problem when you share a small office with three other people. And jesus christ was it uncomfortable. When I couldn't take it anymore, I found a simple wooden chair unused in storage somewhere, swapped it out, and never looked back. It's comfy, I can lean back, there are no arms to get in my way (who needs a chair with arms at a desk anyway?), and it's small enough to comfortable slide into m

    • my reasoning is actually that all desktop work chairs just suck ass. a 10 dollar one piece plastic chair beats all of them - your ass doesn't sweat, you can lean on them, they don't roll out under you - they don't roll around their axis(this one is particularly annoying because WHO THE FUCK really needs a rotating chair?? that rotation and roller wheels are the worst fucking idea ever. I mea, who the fuck comes up with that idea and thinks it's a good choice for a worker who keeps constantly pushing on buttons on the desk and moving an object around the desk? ? fix problems for the 99% by removing the wheels, rotation and smelling cushion and let the hipsters have the stand up desks).

      Well, I use my rotating and rolling chair all the time. Besides the value to sysadmins, which I have found to be significant, it's pretty much mandatory for anyone who has a filing cabinet right next to their desk. I also sweat in plastic chairs, maybe because I am fat. Still, it's true. Actually, I found this to be true way back when I was a child, when I was not fat. That didn't really happen until Jr. high.

      The only office chair I know of which is worth one tenth of one shit is the Aeron. It's still one o

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      We have 'L' shaped desks and the high traffic carpet. If someone comes to my desk to ask a question, I use the wheels to back away from the computer and the rotation feature to turn and face them.

      It would be quite annoying if our chairs did not have these features.
    • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @10:16AM (#46778845)

      I'm 42 and I have been using a balance ball at my desk for 5 years. Love it; by its nature you are always doing small movements, posture is better, and my back problems have pretty much gone away. The pièce de résistance is that I can bounce on it to stay awake during boring conference calls.

      The only times I have problems with it is when I am doing high-intensity focused work on the computer and start to lean and cheat support by leaning over desk and resting more of my arms on the desk.

      • A coworker of mine had one. Then one day I went to get a soda from the break room and while passing by his cube I heard a loud bang. His chair had exploded and dropped him square on the floor. At least they honored his warranty and mailed him a new one.
  • There is zero real proof of this. Where is the 20 year study comparing the office workers to the shop workers? This is as bad as all those GNC studies on how their products make me healthier.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:29AM (#46778067)

    And, it doesn't matter if you are moving much at all.

    Sitting in almost all but perfectly designed, custom fit chairs has all kinds of direct physical effect on your body including circulatory and respiratory changes.

    Here are only a very few of my sources:

    Circulation in general:,

    Blood pressure:

    Back problems:

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:34AM (#46778107)

    >> Advocates of sit-stand desks

    Sorry, I read that as "vendors of sit-stand desks"

    Seriously, does anyone still work at a tech job crappy enough where they care if you sit, stand or bounce around on a pregnancy ball all day?

  • I'd love to give it a go ... but I think in trainers rather than work shoes!
  • Classroom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:40AM (#46778147)

    This should be extrapolated to the classroom. In particular, to boys in elementary and middle school.

  • by DriveDog ( 822962 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:44AM (#46778157)
    I don't know about you. I can walk at any speed all day long, and it feels great, but standing still gets uncomfortable quickly, and my back starts giving me problems after just a few days of that. I still have minor foot issues left over from working in a retail department store for just a couple of years, 30 years ago. So no. No standing desks for me under any circumstances. You're welcome to one. I'm going to be up walking around every 30 minutes and frequently pacing around the cube farm to think, but I'm going to sit while I'm not walking. And I expect a decent chair to go along with a decent monitor. What we all really need is a half hour of walking every 2 hours. The productivity of the sitting time would increase at least enough to offset the time walking.
    • Same here - standing gets very uncomfortable very quickly for me, but I can happily walk up hill and down dale until the cows come home.

      I no longer smoke, but I still take fag breaks at work just to give me a reason to stretch my legs and have some mental downtime once every hour or two. Pacing around is great for thinking, but for doing I need to be sat down.

  • by Katatsumuri ( 1137173 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:47AM (#46778201)
    You must also grow a mustache, otherwise it only changes your sitting-down-still problems to standing-up-still problems.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:48AM (#46778205) Homepage
    I switched to a standing desk last tuesday, and found my company supported the idea as part of our wellness initiative (I got free fruit for deciding to do it.) The first two days were kinda rough, but afterwards it just becomes a normal part of your day. What i was surprised to find was im way more refreshed at the end of the day, and find it a lot easier to communicate with people who are at my cube than if im sitting.

    A few other coworkers do a 'part time' standing desk by elevating their normal work surface using cardboard boxes from the datacenter. im also told a stress relief mat helps make the transition a lot better. Either way, I dont see myself going back to a sitting desk anytime soon.
    • The guy behind me bought his own sit-stand desk a couple of weeks ago. There wasn't any company program, he just decided that his back was worth the $500 to him. He stood almost half the day for the first couple of days, now he sits the whole day again. I told him that if he felt better after a couple of weeks I'd buy one too, but of course, sitting down is exactly the same as sitting down!

  • It's a bit narrow-minded to compare any work being performed today to work that was performed 100 years ago. There were almost no knowledge workers then. Factory work was the norm. We have advanced to using our brains more which requires concentration and less movement distracting us. By all means, get up and move around more, but I think looking to the past is faulty.
  • by DamnRogue ( 731140 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @08:55AM (#46778261)

    I switched to a standing desk about 12 months ago. I'm a pretty fit and active guy, but I have a variety of knee and back problems from years of martial arts training. Particularly, I have patellofemoral arthritis ("theatre knee") that gets worse when I keep my knee bent at 90 degrees or less. On a friend's advice, I built a standing desk and gave it a whirl.

    The first two to three months sucked a lot. I could only stand for 1-2 hours at a time before my knees or feet were too sore to continue. I had to adjust the ergonomics of my workspace, particularly the height of my monitor, to avoid neck irritation. However, my lower back felt great for the first time in years. I kept going.

    Somewhere around the 90 day mark, all my aches and pains vanished. My feet stopped getting sore. My knees no longer hurt. My back feels better than it did when I was 20. My hip flexors are more mobile. I can now on my feet all day with no problem. Standing around at parties doesn't make my feet or back sore. I also lost 5 lbs with no effort because of the increase caloric expenditure.

    I'd recommend a standing desk to anyone with the willpower to make it through the transition. It's well worth it, in my opinion.

  • Not Okay. (Score:5, Funny)

    by fellip_nectar ( 777092 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @09:03AM (#46778327)
    No, it's not okay because if they make me, if they, if they make me, me stand then I...I'll...I'll have to, I'll set the building on fire...
  • When I switched from working in an office to working from home for a couple of years, I went to a standing desk and then to a treadmill/walking desk.

    Took me about 3 days to get used to standing all the time - as in, able to do it without feeling too much pain in my feet at the end of the day.

    The walking desk took about a week to get used to, at first I could only read emails etc. while walking, but after I got used to things I was able to do 4MPH indefinitely while doing basic stuff, and about 2.5MPH while

  • Does anyone still use those radically uncomfortable Scandinavian chairs where you sit on your knees? Back in the Seventies, having one of these was synonymous with being the office crank.

  • Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk

    I started doing that a few weeks ago, and the benefits have been enormous. My setup is nothing fancy, just some props and books to elevate my keyboard and trackball, like this: []

    I got inspired by Marco Arment's DYI soda-can standing desk []. I was struggling for a while thinking "what should I buy, how can do this". Arment's solution is so simple that inspired me to use whatever I had on my desk to put together a solution.

    I'm thinking to build something similar with aluminum cans. Bu

  • by cplusplus ( 782679 ) on Thursday April 17, 2014 @10:02AM (#46778715) Journal
    ...and I've been doing it for over two years now. I used to experience back pain when I sat all day, but that went away after a month or so. I used to get sleepy after lunch when I sat all day... not so much anymore. You really do get used to it. A few suggestions for those who want to try it:

    1) Make the switch the first day you get back from a longer holiday and are already out of your normal routine.

    2) You *must* get a nice floor mat, preferably a dense memory foam mat designed for standing cubes. Working in your socks (if your employer will let you) while standing on said mat almost feels like a foot massage.

    3) Another *must* - don't get a desk-height chair! At least, not for a while. You'll find yourself sitting way too often and never get adjusted to standing all day. Most of my fellow "standing" co-workers that have tall chairs sit at least 80% of the time.

    4) It takes a couple weeks to get used to standing. Stick with it.
  • "'If you look at the late 19th Century,' he says, Victorian clerks could stand at their desks and 'moved around a lot more'. 'It's possible to look back at the industrial office of the past 100 years or so as some kind of weird aberration in a 1,000-year continuum of work where we've always moved around.'"

    If you look at any time in the past million years of our history, I doubt you're going to find a time when people stayed nearly perfectly so still for so long, standing or sitting. We even sit still when w

  • We have these at my office. I love them. Health benefits aside, these are ideal for code reviews. People don't have to crouch or drag chairs into an (already too small) cube.

    Other benefits include: nobody sneaks up on you, while you're standing, and it helps wake me up after lunch.

    That being said though, most people use them in sit down mode and forget to raise them, most of the time. Still, it's wonderful to have the option.

  • I've been working from a standing position for 2 years and I have no intention of ever going back. It's never to late to start, (I'm soon to be 52) I first found an existing spot that I could place my computer and try it out... I was fortunate to both work from home and have a 42" countertop off the kitchen that was the perfect height. After working for several weeks at my kitchen counter, I went out and purchased some simple track shelving from the home depot. It cost maybe $150 to set up shelves fo
  • My aunt was a hair stylist for decades before she retired. After retirement, she had to have at least one surgery to fix the damage that gravity had done due to being on her feet all day. On the opposite side, we know that sitting all day isn't good either. So, like all things, sitting and standing are at their best in moderation. Moderation can be achieved using high-top desks with tall chairs. They offer the option of standing for a while and then sitting down. They have these at the operational cen
  • 1) I'm not sure if this is the original source of this or not, but I started making an effort to move around more after seeing Sitting Is Killing You []. I just wish it were available in a more compact form than the giant infographic. (Update: seems to be from Medical Billing & Coding, but their copy is gone. Also, the copy at lifehack org/articles/lifestyle/why-sitting-is-killing-you.html has a higher google rank but those assholes cut off the last slide with the credits and references.)

    2) A blog I read l

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley