Dear Dr. Walt,
My company is offering for a few of us to try a standing desk—where we can slowly walk at our workstations in our cubicles while working. Do you have any thoughts about these? Are they just a faddish thing?
—Sitting in Arkansas
Well, if you’re asking my “standpoint” on this issue, it’s this: Standing desks are increasingly common. A variety of brands, including Rebel Desk, Stand Steady, and Varidesk, can be found at the National Institutes of Health, the United Nations Secretariat, the Federal Reserve Bank, and an endless list of corporations.
Other cost minded folks are using an idea that has gone viral—placing a pair of $8 Ikea end tables on top of their desks, elevating their computer monitors, and working while standing. Many standing desk users also will use cushioned anti-fatigue mats, which they say can make being on your feet more comfortable.
Meanwhile, others are using treadmill desks (which can cost $1000 to $1500), where they can very slowly walk all day while working. The early consensus seems to be that the right speed is about one mile per hour.
Most of the reports about these desks consist predominately of anecdotes from individuals who took up working at standing or treadmill desks and have been pleased with the results.
But there are some small studies showing that people who use them experience weight loss (about eight pounds over a year), more energy, increased productivity, and elimination of some pains seemingly connected to posture and long-term sitting.
One study found treadmill desks improved the quality of work, quantity of work, and the quality of exchanges with colleagues.
Nevertheless, according to the Washington Post, “not all employers allow standing, and some require a doctor’s note for an employee to have permission. Even at offices that are open to the shift, employees are often expected to foot the bill for their standing solution.”
Hence the popularity of the Ikea option.
Also, though a slew of studies have documented health benefits, accidents can happen.
A story last year in The Wall Street Journal reported that Toyota North America had given permission to workers to bring in their own treadmill desks, but employee enthusiasm waned after a woman took a spill.
The Journal story also reported on an online forum for desk treadmill workers, some of whom complained of Achilles tendon injuries and electric shocks from the static build-up in the machines, though manufacturers say those problems can be fixed by using a rubber base and building up slowly to full-time walking.
So, the bottom line is that there are costs, risks, and benefits. But hopefully, with these facts, and the guidance of your family doctor, you’ll be able to make the decision that is best for you.
© Copyright WLL, INC. 2016. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.