Stand­ing desks can break you out of a seden­tary work life, but they’re not for every­one.


SIT­TING IS THE NEW SMOK­ING, or so the cur­rent meme goes. Does that mean you should march down to HR and de­mand a stand­ing desk? Maybe. On the plus side, stand­ing burns about 20 per­cent more en­ergy than sit­ting, ac­cord­ing to the Cor­nell Hu­man Fac­tors and ▸rgonomics Re­search Group. The pri­mary hangup with stand­ing is, some­times it can hurt. A cer­tain part of the pop­u­la­tion is more or less “stand­ing in­tol­er­ant” due to leg or back pain, ac­cord­ing Jay Kapel­lusch, as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of oc­cu­pa­tional science at Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Milwaukee. At ad­ver­tis­ing agency Hoff­man York, there are some 20 “sit-to-stand” desks that con­vert quickly from one to the other. Angie Buchanan, vice pres­i­dent/ac­count su­per­vi­sor, weighs in on what it’s like work­ing this way.

Stand­ing desks are more pop­u­lar in Europe and have caught on in Milwaukee among younger em­ploy­ees. Be­ing on your feet for just an hour at a time seems to re­verse sleepi­ness and lethargy, says Buchanan. It takes you out of the af­ter­noon slump. Stand­ing for long pe­ri­ods of time, in­clud­ing at a stand­ing desk, can slightly in­crease one’s risk of de­vel­op­ing vari­cose veins. Us­ing a “neg­a­tive tilt” an­gled slightly away from the body eases wrist strain and helps keep good pos­ture. Buchanan is us­ing a pos­i­tive tilt here but can change the an­gle if needed. Fine work, in­clud­ing lengthy read­ing, may be hard to per­form stand­ing, says UWM’s Kapel­lusch. “Most peo­ple can’t stand very still and tend to sway back and forth.”

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