The trendiness of standing desks might not have legs after all.
In its recently updated review of existing research, the Cochrane Work Group — an organization that analyzes occupational health issues — found only weak evidence to support the health benefits of the standing desk and similar interventions designed to reduce how long we spend sitting each day.
Researchers looked at 20 studies involving 2,174 participants from the U.S. and Europe. In only six of those studies did they find evidence that using standing desks led to decreased sitting. Additionally, it was “very low-quality evidence.”
Co-author Jos Verbeek states in a press release:
“At present there is not enough high-quality evidence available to determine whether spending more time standing at work can repair the harms of a sedentary lifestyle. Standing instead of sitting hardly increases energy expenditure, so we should not expect a sit-stand desk to help in losing weight. It’s important that workers and employers are aware of this, so that they can make more informed decisions.”
Alan Hedge, a professor in Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, tells MarketWatch that the main reason such interventions fail is because they aren’t combined with health education or training.
In other words, employers teach workers how to use equipment like standing desks but fail to teach workers why they’re using them, Hedge says:
“The key to any behavioral change is to get people to understand why it’s important.”
Hedge tells MarketWatch about an Australian study of office buildings. In a building with stairs that are easier to access than the elevator, workers walk about 1,400 more steps per day — about one mile more a week — than the average worker.
“The world has gone kind of crazy with the standing desk, the treadmill desk, the hamster wheel desk. None of them are as effective as having people actually walk around.”
To learn more about the benefits of adding a little exercise to your work day, check out “Sit Too Long? The 10-Minute Fix That Could Save Your Life.”
Have you or has anyone you’ve worked with ever tried a standing desk? Do you think the contraptions are worth it? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.