Let common sense prevail in the Sit-Stand debate

It was only a little over two years ago, that the British Journal of Sports Medicine published an expert statement on the sedentary office and how it can be overcome. This included guidance that standing or light walking for two hours a day can have a significant impact on reducing the development of musculoskeletal pain and metabolic disease. As such, the agile work space was born, it’s staple ingredient being the sit-stand desk.

Yet fast forward to the start of 2018 and the meteoric rise of the sit-stand desk has been tempered somewhat. It appears – after all – that sitting is not the new smoking and standing at work can even double your risk of cardiovascular disease.

As is the case with many controversial topics in health and wellbeing, a bit of context never goes astray.

While researchers in Canada and Australia found that prolonged standing at work may be a cardiovascular risk factor, even they are quick to point out occupational context needs to be taken into account. From my own personal experience, I’d argue standing on a cold concrete floor for eight hours a day is far from a healthy working arrangement.

However, I’d also argue that sitting at a workstation for eight hours a day is just as bad. As human’s we need to moderate a lot of things to achieve health and wellbeing, from the amount of sleep we get, to the amount of food we consume. We can apply these simple rules of moderation to the sit-stand debate.

During my time visiting office workplaces in 2017, I found enough anecdotal evidence to support that a sit-stand desk with an appropriate monitor arm configuration can be hugely beneficial to an employee. Even more so with some simple guidelines and education on how to get the most out of an ergonomically designed workspace.

Perhaps the rather than looking at things such as cardiovascular disease and standing in isolation, we can learn from Robertson, Hiang & Lee (2016) who state:  … applying a macroergonomics approach coupled with ergonomics training to improving work environments can produce beneficial and positive effects for office and computer workers and organizations.


The takeaway on all this? As is the case with much health reporting in the mainstream media, reporting ergonomics is no different. It’s important to dig deeper than the headline and focus on a holistic approach to achieve a healthy and productive workplace.


Daniel Nash - PGDip Ergonomics, Health & Safety