Study Suggests Standing Desks ‘Increase Pain’ and Harm Mental Ability

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Standing desks became trendy after research warned of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle. Most office workers spend the vast majority of their day sitting, and these popular desks seemed like a logical solution, allowing their popularity to soar. But one study is suggesting that they may do more harm than good.

According to a report by the Telegraph, a new study that was published in the journal Ergonomics has identified a link between extended use of standing desks and discomfort in the lower limbs as well as harm to mental reaction time.

Curtin University researchers observed 20 study participants as they used a standing desk for a period of two hours, discovering that discomfort increased “significantly” in the lower back and lower limbs.

The findings support those associated with previous research, including those that showed standing desks could result in vein swelling, a condition that can put the heart at risk.

Further, mental reactiveness was observed to have slowed after a person spent a little more than an hour at a standing desk. However, the study also found that “creative” decision making improved marginally.

Many specialists assert that there is little evidence that using a standing desk is beneficial. Nottingham University physiotherapy expert Professor Alan Taylor stated, “The bottom line is that this expansion has been driven more by commercial reasons than scientific evidence.”

“But the evidence is catching up, and it’s showing there are some drawbacks,” Taylor added. “They are not a panacea for back pain, yet companies are worried that if they provide them, they’ll be sued.”

While some office workers are seen to have a “dangerously sedentary” lifestyle, according to a report by Edinburgh University, Taylor asserts that merely using a standing desk isn’t enough to mitigate the risks, and that office workers should take regular walks while on the job.

“Get up, go and make a cup of tea or coffee – don’t just stand there,” said Taylor.

Taylor did state that future studies may show that standing desks are beneficial in some ways, even if the evidence is lacking today.

Another trend that goes beyond the standing desk, where a standing desk is combined with a treadmill to create a “walking desk,” was not examined in the study.