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A cursory search online will reveal countless articles on the risks of sitting.

It’s true that sitting has risks but let’s separate the truth from the hype.

Sitting for too long poses two different kinds of risks to your body:

  • Sedentary behaviour risks – sitting for long periods of time without moving increases your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and obesity.
  • Musculoskeletal risks – when you sit for too long your posture often deteriorates. Your spine gets out of neutral posture and a lot of pressure is placed on your disks, especially the disks of the lower spine.

To see how your posture deteriorates, set a timer for thirty minutes. Sit at your desk and begin working.  When the timer goes off, notice what’s happened to your posture. It’s surprising to what degree we can be unaware of our posture, or how it has deteriorated.

So sitting for prolonged periods can be harmful. Should you jump to the opposite extreme and stand all day?

This is an impulsive response – helping to contribute to the standing desk trend.  But I’m quick to caution people against moving from one extreme situation to another.

The risks of standing

Standing for too long comes with its own risks, and it’s not for everyone.

Some people have very bad standing posture – they’ll slouch forward, lock their knees, or cross their legs.

Additionally, some physical conditions can be made worse when standing for too long.  People with known feet, back or knee problems may find their situation worsening if they shift to standing all day. And nobody should stand on a hard surface for prolonged periods, because that puts a lot of stress on the body.

So which is better?

Sitting is bad. Standing for a prolonged period might be worse in some cases. Both standing and sitting can be taken to the extreme where they create more problems than they solve. The risks and rewards of both must be evaluated. Both options must be customised to the user and it’s often best to alternate them. An adjustable sit stand workstation is one solution and it is intended to allow you to shift positions all day, every day.

The decision to work standing up some or all of the time should be based on your personal preferences and physical condition. Neither sitting nor standing should be taken to an extreme – remember, it’s remaining static that is really the worst thing for you.

Standing may have one hidden ergonomic advantage – you’re more likely to find yourself moving around if you’re standing, whereas sitting can often find you withering into your chair as your posture collapses and you become more fatigued and less productive.

You can read more about sit-stand workstations on this post.