A mountain of science says sitting all day is terrible for you. The obvious conclusion is you should stand up more, and a standing desk seems like a pretty simple and effective way to do that.

No wonder the idea of standing while you work has so won over so many prominent backers. With logic this clear and simple behind it, what could possible be bad about investing in a standing desk set-up?

Quite a bit, according to a new report from Cochrane that reviews more than 20 studies from the U.S. and Europe of interventions designed to get workers to be more active.

Problem 1: you don't actually stand up that much more.

The biggest issue with standing desks might be that they simply don't seem to get people up off their feet that much more. "The researchers found very low-quality evidence from three non-randomized studies and low-quality evidence from three randomized studies, with 218 participants, that people who used sit-stand desks sat between 30 minutes and two hours less, compared to when they used conventional desks during the working day," reports Cochrane.

So to put that clearly, the evidence we have is flimsy and at best and it shows that revamping your work set-up will only have you standing between a half hour and two hours more a day. That's not nothing but it's hardly stellar either.

It should also be noted that earlier research showed people who stand more at work tend to end up sitting more when they leave the office. So even if you beat the odds and stand a lot at your desk, you might be cancelling out the benefits by being a couch potato at home. 

Problem 2: standing isn't actually all that much better than sitting.

Perhaps the bigger issue is that while exercise is phenomenal for us, standing up is not all that beneficial from a health perspective. NPR spoke with Dr. Jos Verbeek, a health researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, who worked on the review and who is unimpressed with the impact of simply standing up more.

"There isn't really any evidence that standing is better than sitting," reports NPR. "The extra calories you burn from standing over sitting for a day are barely enough to cover a couple of banana chips."

Problem 3: standing up has it's own health risks.

The NPR article also highlights another inconvenient fact for fans of standing desks -- sitting is truly awful for you, but standing has it's own issues too. "There's evidence that standing can be bad for your health," Verbeek notes, citing a Danish study that showed prolonged standing led to a high risk of hospitalization for enlarged veins.

The bottom line? Standing desks are "just fashionable and not proven good for your health," Verbeek concludes.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't use a standing desk if you enjoy it. Just don't push it on others as a health cure all. If you want to counteract the terrible health effects of sitting for long periods regularly getting up for a short stroll is probably your best bet until more science is in.

Do you use a standing desk? Have you found it improves how you feel?

Published on: Mar 23, 2016