Standing desks were all the rage for a while, but a recent article in the New York Times pooh-poohs them as "overrated." You may have heard that all the sitting you do at work all day is slowly killing you, but if you look at the actual research, that's not really the case, writes Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics. No, sitting for hours a day is not great, and yes, prolonged sitting has been found to be linked to poor health outcomes. But the evidence doesn't support the idea that it's prolonged sitting at work that is the problem. In fact, there are studies that have found prolonged sitting at work does not have the same adverse effects as prolonged sitting in other situations, and there are also studies finding too much standing or walking at work is linked to health problems. The real problem with prolonged sitting is when it's part of an overall sedentary lifestyle.
As Carroll explains, it could very well be that prolonged sitting is a marker for other problems, such as unemployment, and it's those other problems that lead to a sedentary lifestyle. It's the type of prolonged sitting that's associated with an overall sedentary lifestyle that you want to avoid. The best way to combat it? Exercise, and standing at a desk is not exercise. There's also no proof that standing to work improves cardiovascular health, Vox reports. Rather than buying a standing desk and thinking you're getting the benefit of actual exercise, some experts suggest taking walking breaks throughout the day at work. There are, however, other benefits to sit-stand desks, including alleviating neck and back pain, and headlines like "I tried using a standing desk at work for a week and it instantly gave me more energy" still abound. (It's not the sitting that's killing you.)