Do standing desks stack up?

It is well researched and well known that prolonged sitting, as a form of inactivity, can be detrimental to both musculoskeletal and general health. Even if you go to the gym for an hour in the mornings, you can undo all of that hard work by sitting on your butt for eight hours of the working day. 

It is estimated that 60-70% of our waking hours are spent in a sedentary position. That’s a whopping three quarters! Sitting for 8 hours at work, the commute from home, screen time .. it all adds up quickly! 

Thanks to google images for this one...

Thanks to google images for this one...

So if sitting is bad… lets just stand!

One of many strategies that many workplaces have been implementing to help their employees be more active are standing desks. 

You may have heard about them, or perhaps even used them at work, but for those of us not in the know they’re just a desk that is higher than normal so you can stand rather than sit. Ideally, the height of the tabletop should be roughly at elbow level. So they constitute more of a workplace culture change rather than a technological advancement! 

Standing desks have been shown to have great outcomes for employers because they improve productivity, reduce time away from work due to illness or injury and tend to lead to happier, healthier workers. 

Surely it’s not that simple…

The implementation of standing desks in workplaces has not always been a story of happiness and productivity though! Some employers have completely turfed seated desks in favour of standing desks. So instead of eight hours of sitting and a sore neck, employees now stood for eight hours and had sore lower backs and feet instead*! It really shows that too much of anything can have a negative effect. 

The middle ground is a variable height desk, or a sit-stand desk. They allow the user to alternate between sitting and standing as they feel the need. There are various models of these desks, which begin at about $300 for a manually variable desk that sits on top of your current desk, right the way up to fully automated electronic and programmable versions for several thousands of dollars. Experts recommend doing your research before buying in to anything to make sure it suits your needs, your body frame and the work you need to do. 

Image of man working with an adjustable desk

Image of man working with an adjustable desk

Stand, Sit, Sit-Stand… whats the best for your body?!

If you are thinking about switching from a sitting desk to a standing or variable height desk, there are some things you can do to smooth the transition. If you are normally an 8 hour a day sitter… you should begin by trying to incorporate no more than two hours in a day of standing and light walking (like to the printer and back again). There might be some initial tiredness or discomfort as your body adjusts, but you should not just accept pain. If you are experiencing discomfort or prolonged fatigue don't just put up with it! Review your posture, change your timing, move more and consider having your standing position reviewed or assessed. 

Once comfortable with this, then aim for four hours in the day where you are active or standing, which should equate to roughly half your time at work. This is a gradual process. Be patient and stick to it! Remember that there are more options than just sitting or standing also… perhaps different types of chairs, kneeling, squatting, or lying are options for you and your workplace. 

Trust your body!

"Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks"

"Trust yourself, no matter what anyone else thinks"

When you move your body more, it will thank you! Just by taking the scenic route to the water cooler or a stroll during lunch you’ve dropped your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Congratulations! 


TMT Physiotherapist


The facts in this article are drawn from a consensus statement published in 2015 from experts in England and Australia. You can find it here.

For more palatable reading of those facts and more information on the topic, head to