The Truth Behind Sit-Stand Desks | Are They Expensive Bullshit?
Published 2 months ago | Last update 2 months ago
Your Ergonomic Future May Be At Risk
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- A History of Sitting
- Sitting vs Standing Desks
- The Great Equalizer: Sit-Stand Desks
- Are Sit-Stand Desks Bullshit?
- *Important Considerations*
- All Right, How Much is This Gonna Cost Me?
- My Personal Recommendation
- The Perfect Standing Desk Does Exist
- The Search for More Advanced Desks
- More Quality Articles
A History of Sitting
IN A WORLD where people routinely spend 8 to 12 hours sitting at their computer working, gaming, browsing 256kilobytes, and so on, the general consensus of science (and common sense) seems to be that that is...just too long to spend sitting.
A brief history on sitting: People have been sitting since evolution gave us comfy asses, and it’s only gotten better since we developed things like chairs and our average BMIs have increased to give us a more natural cushion back there.
The problem: Sitting is great, in theory, but people started to do too much of it once PCs and the Internet and WOW and Minecraft became widely available. Nowadays, a lot of people (myself included) sit at a computer for 8 hours or more for their jobs, not really giving us much of an option.
Above: You suffering from back pain after sitting for too long. Img courtesy of wikihow.com
Phrases such as “sitting is the new smoking” have been thrown around by anti-sitting activists. Sitting-apologists have argued that this comparison is overly dramatic. Others have pointed toward the bipartisan solution of the modern sit-stand desk.
Let’s examine the truth behind the claims that prolonged sitting (and/or standing) can lead to long-term health issues, as well as possible solutions, such as the so-called messianic sit-stand desk, and their merits.
Sitting vs Standing Desks
Various studies have linked prolonged desk-sitting to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer, generally not living as long, and other things that most people view as negatives. Also, if you are someone who spends a lot of time at a desk you’ve probably noticed things like your butt or shoulders start to get sore, especially if you aren’t so young anymore (source: am 25 years old and my shoulders hurt right now).
But you’re probably asking yourself, “what kind of cancer does prolonged sitting actually cause?”
Research regarding time spent sitting, associated negative health effects, and ways to counteract these, the entire field or research is still young, but it is generally agreed that less sitting is a good thing.
Enter: Standing desks. Companies that sell standing desks have claimed that they offset the negative health effects associated with sitting all day. However, according to some studies, standing at a desk all day does not burn many more calories than sitting, and it has not been proven if standing desks offer a substantial health benefit at all.
Additionally, standing desks can cause their own sorts of problems, such as pain in a person’s back, legs, or feet. It is generally recommended that you don’t go from using a sitting desk for 8 hours a day to using a standing desk for 8 hours a day, as such a drastic change will only exacerbate any potential issues. With this consideration, it seems dangerous to wholly commit to a standing desk.
The Great Equalizer: Sit-Stand Desks
With the proponents of sitting and standing desks gearing up for war, the perfectly ergonomic sit-stand desk made its entrance. Sit-stand desks have adjustable heights that allow for you to revert your sitting desk to a standing one, and back again!
The most obvious benefit of a sit-stand desk is that, yeah, you can swap between the two positions (or more) whenever you want, which should to some degree alleviate any issues that usually arise from too much of one thing.
Above: A classic sit-stand adjustable desk. As you can see from the position second to the left, you can even put in the "squat uncomfortably" position. Img from larryswanson.com
However, sit-stand desks come with a number of downsides and definitely aren’t the complete solution that they claim to be.
Are Sit-Stand Desks Bullshit?
First of all, it is important to remember that sit-stand desks are not miracles sent by the one true Christian God himself. Alternating between sitting and standing is not a substitution for the real solution, which is actually walking around or doing an activity of some sort.
Sit-stand desks also require that you actually stop to swap to the other position from time to time, which can be a hassle if you’re really focused on your work. Taking a break isn’t really a bad idea in the first place though.
There are many variations of sit-stand desks. Some of them are adjusted using hand cranks, electric lifts, or pneumatic lifts, with hands cranks being the noisiest and least efficient.
You should consider that a desk that is noisy, difficult, or time-consuming to adjust may discourage you from switching from sitting to standing very often, which kind of defeats the purpose. For the ultimate convenience, you have your desks that “remember” your height settings and can go to the perfect height with a simple button press.
All Right, How Much is This Gonna Cost Me?
According to standdesk.co (apparently an expert site on such things), basic manually-adjusted sit-stand desks start at $180 and go up from there. These manual desks are by far the most inefficient and annoying to move up and down.
Electric desks don’t have this downside but they are priced from about $480 all the way up to $2,000. Desks that can record and adjust to programmable heights go for $600 and above.
The general consensus seems to be that if you’re going to invest in an adjustable height desk, a manual desk is not the way to go. You’re going to want to shell out at least enough for an electrical desk to make it worth it, and even then you’ll need to perfect the height every time unless you get the type of desk with a memory.
There’s one other option as well: a “standing desktop converter.”
It’s basically...well, it’s a tiny desk for the top of your desk. And unfortunately still ranges from about $100 to $450 in price.
Also, if you're in the mood to destroy your knees beyond repair, wikihow.com recommends the revolutionary kneeling desk alternative:
My Personal Recommendation
No matter how great your sit-stand desk is, you will still have to make sure you take breaks from working. Whether you sit, stand, or do a bit of both, I (not a medical professional) recommend that you take a little walk around every hour or so. Grab a glass of water, see the town.
Additionally, you’ll want to take a couple of longer breaks and make sure you get some physical activity in during your daily routine. This could be a nice walk, or something more intense, depending on what you’re comfortable with.
The Perfect Standing Desk Does Exist
I actually have my own “standing desk converter” that fits my needs perfectly. Instead of opting for one of the more expensive options, I would recommend that anyone who wants to experiment with a sit-stand set-up make their own arrangement similar to mine:
As you can see, my standing desk converter consists of a Webster’s New World Dictionary (Second College Edition), The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and Physics: Principles with Applications by Douglas C. Giancoli. These provide a very easy way of boosting my keyboard and/or monitor up to a standing height. Depending on your needs, you may need one or two additional large books for your own setup.
The Search for More Advanced Desks
There are even more ergonomic desks out there...just waiting to be discovered.
For only $2000, you can have this nice swim desk, no sitting OR standing required.
[Disclaimer: Not a real desk.]
Alternatively, you have this sweet treadmill desk, which solves the problem of having to take breaks for physical activity, because you’re always moving.
Hey lady, you may want to wear more athletic shoes if you have a treadmill for a desk.
[Disclaimer: This one is actually real, somehow.]
Try not to sit, stand, or walk around too much. Ideally, try to do a mixture of all three.
Also, don’t lie in bed all day because you may get bed sores. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, no matter what you do.
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Standing desks are proof that you can sell anything if you pay enough sellouts to promote it.
Personally, it's not so much sitting that I don't enjoy, as is staying in a single position for longer periods of time. I assume that in the long run, standing for so long would probably have just as many side effects as sitting. Who the fuck can stand straight all day in front of a computer anyway? Same goes for sitting. I take walks along with the rest of the elderly near my LLC pond all the time.
People have been sitting around doing shit involving mental activity for a long time. Think Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on a god damn standing desk? People should get over themselves and do some stretching and some McAfee-style yoga or something and they'll be fine.
@Huevos Rancheros: You are 100% right that standing desks are bullshit. And the theory behind sit-stand desks seems reasonable because they allow you to not spend too much time either sitting or standing. But they're also just ridiculously expensive and (in my opinion) unnecessary when you can just walk around for a few minutes or do McAfee yoga.
As a fun aside: I did all the "research" for this article on Google and now every website I visit is assaulting me with advertisements for standing desks.
I am Louis Cicalese, as they say.
I am Louis Cicalese, as they say.
Buy this $3,695.90 desk with our affiliate link:
Sir, I can do you a nice SEO.
Sir, I can do you a nice SEO.
I'm literally sitting on the floor right now
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