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Standing desks put health first, but will they catch on?

Standing desks put health first, but will they catch on?

Opinions are divided regarding standing desks: some claim they are beneficial, but others say they have a downside.

As the health risks of spending too much time sitting down become increasingly apparent, the phenomenon of standing desks is already a reality in many offices around the world, notably in the tech industry where large firms such as Google, AOL, and Facebook are offering them as part of their employee-wellness programs.

Facebook alone has an estimated 250 standing desks at its facilities with more employees asking for them every day. As Facebook recruiter Greg Hoy told the Wall Street Journal on his own experience: “I don’t get the 3 o’clock slump anymore. I feel active all day long.”

But why are many companies turning to the standing desk, and could the phenomenon really catch on?

In recent years, various scientific studies have suggested that sitting all day behind a desk is bad for your health, with some going so far as to claim that those who sit for the majority of the workday are 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.

Other health risks include obesity, diabetes, and back pain. Further studies claim that employees feel a stronger sense of focus if working while standing, increasing both attention span and productivity.

Designers are going out of their way to capitalize on the phenomenon with a number of different styles of standing desk available as recently reviewed by Thewirecutter.com.

Some have gone so far to suggest that standing desks are, in fact, nothing new, and that great historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill preferred to work and write while standing.

Yet perhaps unsurprisingly, others have claimed there that the health benefits are balanced out by a downside. One QZ journalist who experimented with the standing desk as a cure for back pain quickly found other health problems — namely, “cankles,” or swollen calves and ankles, a common complaint among waiters, nurses, and others who spend much of the day on their feet.

Meanwhile, some medical studies have questioned the idea that standing is actually better for your health than sitting, finding evidence linking it to chronic back pain and musculoskeletal disorders as well as the dreaded risk of heart disease that standing desks were intended to help reduce.

As employee wellness becomes an increasingly important aspect of any company policy, the lesson may be that moderation is in order. Basically, whatever makes you feel comfortable and most productive personally is likely the best short-term order.

Read here about how prolonged sitting can severely damage your health.