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Made the switch to a standing desk? Feeling a little smug about all those amazing health benefits you’ll pick up as a result? Looking down your nose a little at all the lazy all-day-sitters? Without putting too fine a point on it, you might want to sit down for this one…ironically.
While it’s been assumed for some time that standing rather than sitting for hours on end must be better for your health, the evidence doesn’t quire stack up. In fact, there’s growing reasons to believe that anything you do to minimize sitting time at work might not in fact be doing your health and huge benefits.
Prolonged sitting at work can represent one very large element of a sedentary lifestyle. And as has been known for quite some time, inactive lifestyles can elevate a person’s risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity and early death. As such, whatever it takes to quite siting and stand up must be helpful, right?
To see what’s really going on, a research team spanning multiple nations examined the results of 20 studies involving 2,174 adults. Two of the studies focused on workplace policy modifications, nine looked at physical office changes, seven focused on counselling and information programs while one took into account both counselling and physical changes to the office.
Standing desks were what the author of the new study were most interested in. Where installed, workers generally averaged between 30 and 120 minutes less sitting each day. There was no real difference when counselling was offered alongside the new office furniture.
On the whole, the researchers found no concrete evidence that standing at work to minimize sitting time has any real health benefits at all.
“It is important that workers who sit at a desk all day take an interest in maintaining and improving their well-being both at work and at home,” lead researcher Dr. Jos Verbeek, of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said.
“However, 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.”
The study authors suggested that existing research into the effects of standing at work is insufficient to promote the idea as one that can be beneficial to health.
“The quality of evidence was very low to low for most interventions mainly because studies were very poorly designed and because they had very few participants,” they wrote.
“We conclude that at present there is very low quality evidence that sit-stand desks can reduce sitting at work at the short term. There is no evidence for other types of interventions. We need research to assess the effectiveness of different types of interventions for decreasing sitting at workplaces in the long term.”