Should You Switch to a Standing Desk? A Look at the Pros and Cons to Help You Decide

standing deskStanding desks are a current fad sweeping offices and schools across the country. However, surprisingly enough, standing desks aren’t new at all. The history of standing desks dates back to the 1400s and in the 18th and 19th century they became especially popular among the rich. Several famous people throughout history have used standing desks, including Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway and Donald Rumsfeld.

Today there are several companies that make standing desks, including Varidesk, Ergo Depot and others. These desks are designed to be used while standing up or while sitting on a high stool. While designs vary, these desks are purported to have several health benefits – but others say they offer health consequences too.

Standing desks are getting the spotlight once again this year because of a recent study about the effects that standing desks can have when used at school. The study measured high school students on a number of neurocognitive tests – both before and after they had used standing desks for an entire semester. The study found that using standing desks changed the students’ brain activation patterns and boosted their cognitive skills such as memory, concentration and problem solving.

That study aside, there are some people who claim that standing desks can do more harm than good. To present you with a fair and balanced discussion of the topic, we’d like to share the pros and the cons of standing desks to help you decide if a standing desk is right for you.

Pros of Standing Desks

According to the recent study we mentioned earlier, standing desks can possibly help your cognitive functioning. Having better concentration, problem-solving skills, and memory are certainly pluses no matter what industry you work in. If the study results are also applicable to adults in working situations (not just students in school), then a standing desk could improve your productivity and efficiency on a daily basis.

The other benefits of standing desks have to do with physical health. It has been found that the average worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes per day sitting at their desk, and another 7 hours sleeping at night. That’s a whole lot of sitting and laying around, which can have negative health consequences. Therefore, a standing desk can help to:

  • Improve your metabolism (thereby lowering your risk of obesity)
  • Reduce your risk of metabolic problems including Type 2 Diabetes
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce your risk of cancer
  • Lower your long-term mortality risk (the risk of dying within a given period of time)

Cons of Standing Desks

The pros of standing desks demonstrate that they can help your physical and cognitive health, but that doesn’t mean the issue is a closed case. Some people say that standing desks can also have harmful effects on your health. This includes:

  • Pain including sore feet and lower back problems.
  • Health risks such as increased risk for cardiovascular problems like carotid arteries, varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (because the heart has to work against gravity to keep blood flowing from the toes up).
  • Some tasks are better performed when sitting down, such as those that require fine motor skills, so a standing desk may impact your work on some tasks.
  • Standing burns 20 percent more calories which means you will likely tire more quickly during the day.

So is a standing desk right for you? Only you can decide based on the pros and cons we listed as well as your job and individual preferences. The one thing that can be certain is that no matter what desk you choose – a traditional desk or a standing desk – you need to switch it up throughout the day. You shouldn’t be sitting all day and you shouldn’t be standing all day either. Try to work both into your daily routine so you can enjoy more health benefits and avoid the consequences.


About Jennifer Peaslee

Jennifer has a Masters in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. She is currently working as a freelance writer, editor, blogger and researcher.