Brace yourselves. Standing Desks are not a miracle elixir with magical cure-all benefits.
The New York Times Aaron Carroll has published an article slating the growing culture of standing desks. Carroll writes that “standing desks have become trendy…research suggests that warnings about sitting at work are overblown, and that standing desks are overrated” This has resulted in a number of spin off articles from lesser known sites extrapolating that standing desks are unnecessary.
In the NYT online, Carroll quickly cites several studies to support his opinion piece including Rempel and Krause (University of California) published work in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine from July 2018 which states that there is little evidence to support the notion that standing desks improve cardiovascular health.
The NYT article has a grandiose title and by-line designed to grab you by the collar, pull you close and challenge your preconceptions. The NYT article throws out words such as “over rated.” Whilst Carroll proposes that standing desks are “not cures” and that “standing is not exercise.” Carefully worded statements designed to decimate the growing belief that standing desks are a good thing that benefit your health.
The article is written by a medical professor of Paediatrics. The author Carroll has constructed his argument based on several studies from specialists in occupational health that explain the correlation between long sitting periods and ill health only being bad when it relates to people who are doing that outside of the work environment and there are very few links between workplace sitting and increased mortality. Suggesting rather that the sitting stats are a marker for social influences to ill health such as unemployment.
Interestingly the New York Times would probably like you to forget that in June they produced a less polarising article on the matter of "exercise versus standing" which cited research that illustrated standing is part of the solution rather than a replacement for exercise. They write "you probably need to do both."
MD of iwantastandingdesk.com Nick White explains that common sense, moderation and breaking the sedentary habit is at the core of the health benefit of a standing desk culture.
"You need to take responsibility for yourself, your health and well-being. Nobody is saying that standing desks are a cure for anything. They are however an important part of the solution. If you sit on your bottom all day, eat poorly and don’t exercise your standing desks isn’t going to magically fix that. Take responsibility for your own lifestyle. A standing desk is a part of the solve. Take the stairs. Park your car a little further away from work and walk. Using a standing desk isn’t a cure but it’ll help you rid yourself of an unhealthy mentality. Legitimate research exists that proves standing desks used in moderation and with sitting breaks will benefit your health and productivity in numerous ways as part of an overall solution"
So White doesn’t believe standing desks are a magical cure-all elixir either. Does this mean they are overrated as Carroll writes or as some spin off articles extrapolated …”unnecessary”?
Perhaps the evidence of cardiovascular benefit has yet to be successfully empirically measured however this absolutely does not negate that a huge 800,000 participant study by the UK’s National Health Service found that, compared with those who sat the least, people who sat the longest had a 112 per cent increased risk of type 2 diabetes, a 147 per cent increase in cardiovascular problems and a 90 per cent increase in death from heart attack and stroke.
Resultingly the NHS in the UK now promotes standing as being part of an overall prescription for healthier living in order to reduce one of the biggest threats to our national health which is the populations growing sedentary habit.
Writing that standing desks are “not a cure” and “standing isn’t exercise” uses a straw-man notion that argues against a point that no one was making. It is unhealthy thinking, that whilst it might garner traffic like click-bait content it doesn’t contribute to the conversation everyone else is having.
Abram Falk commented “This is a strange and unnecessary attack on a device that many find helpful. Nobody was claiming that standing desks were a miracle health device”
Mike from New York wrote “No one argued that standing was exercise. This entire article is addressing a straw man argument. Standing -- for short periods mixed in with walks and sitting -- engages muscles that otherwise go dormant, improves blood flow, improves focus”
Another upvoted comment reads “I have not found anyone, anywhere who suggested that standing was exercise.”
The world’s greatest athletes advocate for healthy mentality. They believe in the power of positivity. Standing desks encourage that mentality. This can’t be empirically proven but it is broadly recognised as an essential element of success.
“small, positive changes, consistently made are a winning combination in life and in business” - Sally Gunnel the only female British athlete to have won Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles. Speaking at a health and well-being seminar she was delivering to businesses.
We live in an age where written pieces must be polarised and there is little room left for common sense. As such we believe impactful influencers such as The New York Times have a responsibility to foster ideas that contribute positively to society. Inactivity is a major health issue. It is the reason our children’s expected lifespans are 5 years shorter now. Taking a position that standing desks are bad because science hasn’t proven the cardiovascular benefits as emphatically as they would like whilst ignoring the myriad of proven health benefits and pro-standing research isn’t offering a balanced take on the movement. It’s getting traffic with controversy. Omitting the pro standing desk research because it doesn’t suit the narrative is unfair to the reader. We felt it was time that someone stood up for standing up. If carrots are suddenly proven not to give you night sight, do you stop eating them as part of a healthy diet? No. We say don’t jack in your jack desks just yet. Include them amongst all your healthy choices.
We all need to change poor habitual stationary behaviour. Standing desks are not a fix-all but they are part of the solution toolkit for combating a sedentary lifestyle.
Want me to prove it? Bookmark the blog. Then stand up. Listen to your body. It’s telling you that this is better. Keep at it and this writer believes you’ll find the results are irrefutable.
Standing desks are available throughout this website. Carrots are available elsewhere.