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Everyone wants to be healthier and live longer, which can often translate into indulging in trends that promise to make us thinner, healthier, and happier, whether it’s a fad diet or a fad piece of workout equipment. Sometimes this stuff even works—but most of the time these health trends and products wind up having a more or less neutral effect on our health. For example, standing desks.
These desks, designed to allow you to work at a desk while standing up, have been on trend for a few years now, inspired by studies that warned of the many health dangers involved with sitting on your ass for hours at a time. And it’s not just the sitting that makes your desk so dangerous—working at a desk can cause other problems, like carpal tunnel syndrome or good old-fashioned back aches.
So chances are you’ve Googled “standing desk” at some point in the last few years, and therefore have experienced sticker shock, because there are some seriously expensive standing desks out there (we’re looking at you, Herman Miller Nevi Sit to Stand Desk, which costs upwards of $1,000). The good news? While there’s nothing wrong with wanting a standing desk (or a sit-to-stand adjustable desk), their health benefits are overblown, so you don’t need one. And you can definitely get away with a super cheap solution if all you want to do is stretch your legs during the day.
Few health benefits
It’s pretty well established that sitting all day is isn’t good for you—it may even reduce your lifespan. While scientists aren’t entirely certain why this is, you should definitely try to sit less while working all day. But a standing desk won’t help much, because further studies have proven something that really should be obvious: Standing is not a form of exercise. Studies have shown that you burn about 80 calories per hour when sitting, and about 88 when standing, which isn’t enough of a difference to matter much. When it comes to offsetting the dangers of sitting all day, doing some light activity like walking for five minutes every half hour is a lot more effective.
And standing all day instead can actually be bad for you—studies have shown that standing for hours at a time increases your risk for varicose veins, for example, which are in turn associated with a greater risk of arterial disease.
The bottom line? If you’re thinking of getting a standing desk because you want to be healthier and live longer, you’re wasting your money. You’ll do better getting up twice an hour and moving around.
Standing your ground
Let’s be clear: Just because a standing desk won’t necessarily improve your health doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one if you want one. There are many reasons why a standing desk can be a good choice for your office. It might be more comfortable for you to stand due to back pain or other problems, and some folks might simply be happier standing up while working. And you can combine a standing desk with a treadmill or other stationary exercise equipment to get a workout while you work, making you into some sort of minor god of efficiency.
But you can get all of those benefits without spending hundreds of dollars. The sole function of a standing desk is to elevate your work space comfortably, so you can adapt your existing desk using a converter for less than $100, or get an adjustable desk for less than $200. These will do exactly the same job as more expensive solutions and offer exactly the same health benefits, which is to say very few.
Of course, if you have expensive style and the only standing desk that fits the theme of your office decor costs $1,000, you do you. But if you’re just looking to add a little flexibility to your work habits, you don’t have to break the bank.