A Dynamic Workday - Is it Better to Sit or Stand at Work?


Woman standing while working on laptop - Is standing or sitting better for work ?

A Dynamic Workday: Is it Better to Sit or Stand at Work?

In the world of ergonomic office solutions, one of the most pressing debates continues revolving around the optimal workday posture: to sit or to stand. As we start naming the implications of our workday postures on our health, it becomes increasingly clear that neither sitting nor standing for prolonged periods is the silver bullet we once hoped for.

The Sitting vs. Standing Debate

The dialogue around whether it is better to sit or stand at work goes beyond comfort or personal preference to workplace requirements and health recommendations. While certain jobs necessitate long hours of sitting or standing, emerging research suggests that both extremes come with challenges and drawbacks.

Extended sitting, once deemed unquestionable in working settings, is now often associated with sedentary and unhealthy office environments. The recent trend of standing desks and active workstations champions the idea that standing could counter the ill effects of sitting. However, the ideal workday posture might not lean entirely towards one or the other.

The Boons and Bans of Prolonged Standing

Standing may compensate for the pitfalls of a sedentary lifestyle, and “the benefits of standing could go beyond weight control,” said Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, chief of preventive cardiology at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and senior author of the study, in a statement. Some of the benefits of standing include:

1. Increased Energy and Alertness

Standing can help increase your energy levels and alertness by promoting blood flow and circulation. This can lead to better focus and concentration, potentially improving productivity.

2. Improved Posture & Muscle Tone and Strength

Standing engages different muscle groups, particularly in the back, legs, and core and can encourage you to maintain a natural spine position. Over time, it can improve posture, muscle tone, and strength.

3. Enhanced Metabolism & Better Digestive Health

Standing burns more calories than sitting, contributing to a higher metabolic rate. This can aid in weight management and reduce the risk of metabolic diseases. Moreover, standing after eating can aid digestion and reduce the likelihood of acid reflux and heartburn.

4. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease & Type 2 Diabetes

Research has linked prolonged sitting with an increased risk of heart disease. Standing more often can help counteract these risks by promoting better blood circulation. Standing also helps regulate blood sugar levels more effectively than sitting, especially after meals (hence, the 10-minute walk recommendation post-meals). This can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

While there are benefits associated, standing for too long without breaks has its own set of health risks. These include:

1. Musculoskeletal Disorders

Extended periods of standing can increase the risk of developing conditions such as lower back pain, muscle fatigue, and tension in the neck and shoulders. This is due to the constant strain and pressure on the body's musculoskeletal structure.

2. Lower Limb Swelling & Circulatory Problems

Standing for long periods can cause blood to pool in the legs and feet, leading to swelling, varicose veins, and increased pressure on the circulatory system. This can result in discomfort and, in severe cases, more serious vascular disorders

3. Fatigue

While standing can initially increase alertness, prolonged standing without adequate breaks can lead to overall fatigue and decreased productivity as the body expends more energy to maintain an upright position.

4. Foot Problems

Extended standing, especially on hard surfaces or in improper footwear, can lead to foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, flat feet, and bunions.

Sitting Matters: Weighing the Cons Against the Comforts

Conversely, sitting for extended periods has been linked to a range of health issues, including:

1. Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease & Type 2 Diabetes

Long periods of sitting can lead to increased blood pressure, higher levels of unhealthy cholesterol, higher blood sugar levels, and increased insulin resistance, which can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

2. Metabolic Syndrome & Weight Gain and Obesity

Extended sitting is associated with a greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which includes conditions like increased blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels, all linked to a higher risk of weight gain and obesity.

3. Reduced Circulation & Musculoskeletal Disorders

Sitting for long hours can reduce blood circulation, leading to swelling in the legs and feet and increasing the risk of blood clots. It can also cause poor posture and back, neck, and shoulder pain, and non-ergonomic seating can exacerbate this problem, leading to chronic musculoskeletal disorders.

4. Mental Health Issues & Decreased Lifespan

Extended sitting can negatively impact mental health, contributing to issues such as depression and anxiety. Moreover, studies have suggested that sitting for prolonged periods can shorten life expectancy, even for those who exercise regularly

Thus, while the long-term effects of sitting can be detrimental to both health and work performance, the comfort of sitting can be as needed as it appeals for several reasons:

1. Improved Concentration and Efficiency

For many people, sitting helps them focus better on tasks and minimises distractions compared to standing. This can lead to improved work efficiency and productivity.

2. Ergonomic Support

Properly designed seating can provide better ergonomic support than standing for long periods by supporting the spine’s natural curves and reducing strain on the back, neck, and shoulders.

3. Reduced Physical Fatigue & Enhanced Personal Health Adjustments

Conserving energy by sitting can reduce physical fatigue over long work periods, which can benefit high mental focus. Moreover, individuals with certain types of foot, knee, or back problems may find sitting less painful and more conducive to long work periods. 

4. Lowered Risk of Occupational Hazards

In certain work environments, sitting can reduce the risk of injuries associated with standing tasks, such as falls or strains.

The Final Verdict: Why Should You Alternate Between Sitting & Standing

The solution lies in creating a dynamic work environment that encourages movement and variation for multiple reasons. Moving between sitting and standing can help maintain energy levels and reduce fatigue, resulting in more alert and engaged employees.

A dynamic work environment can help focus and cognitive function, as regular movement can help refresh the mind and reduce the monotony of static postures.

Additionally, alternating between sitting and standing helps promote a more natural spinal alignment and reduces strain on any part of the body, overall improving posture

Finally, alternating postures can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders, improve circulation, and prevent the negative health effects associated with prolonged sitting or standing. Ultimately, this solution can reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles, leading to enhanced, long-term physical health.

Creating a Balanced Work Environment

To harness the benefits of sitting and standing, employers and employees must work together to create a balanced work environment. This includes investing in ergonomic furniture, such as ergonomic chairs and other ergonomic equipment, as well as encouraging all staff members to listen to their bodies and be mindful of their workday postures. 

Ultimately, the question of whether it is better to sit or stand at work doesn't have a one-size-fits-all answer. The dynamic approach to sitting and standing emerges as an enduring solution for a healthier, more productive workforce.

If you have any queries or need assistance in choosing ergonomic equipment or accessories, contact Ergolink at (08) 9240 7066, visit our website or showroom, or contact us online.