Photo illustration by Sarina Finkelstein for MONEY; Getty Images (2)
By Denver Nicks
March 18, 2016

It’s well known that sitting too much shortens life expectancy and increases risk of problems like heart failure and diabetes. But according to a new study published this week it seems treadmill desks, standing desks, and the like may not be the solution many hoped.

“What we actually found is that most of it is, very much, just fashionable and not proven good for your health,” health researcher Dr. Jos. Verbeek told NPR. Verbeek and his co-authors published their findings in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, after looking at 20 of the best studies on the matter. What they found is that the studies tended to be either too small or poorly designed, leading them to conclude that there is no solid evidence demonstrating that standing is better than sitting.

“The idea you should be standing four hours a day? There’s no real evidence for that,” he said. “I would say that there’s evidence that standing can be bad for your health,” in fact, pointing to a 2005 study linking prolonged standing with enlarged veins. The extra calories burned off by standing versus sitting are minimal, he said–perhaps the equivalent of a couple of banana chips daily.

Behavioral medicine professor Lucas Carr, who was not involved in the study, pushes back against the authors’ conclusions, insisting that moderation and balance are key.

“The health benefits of standing are not well-known,” Carr tells NPR. “But you’re going to burn more calories standing than sitting. I know it’s not a tremendous amount,” he says, but “those calories every day over many years will add up.”

One thing the two sides do agree on is that, in Carr’s words, “the state of the science is definitely early.” More rigorous studies will need to be conducted before more real evidence emerges to support your co-workers constant humblebrags about the benefits of their standing desks.

 

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