Is it Time to Get a Standing Desk?

Standing desks can break you out of a sedentary work life, but they’re not for everyone.

Sitting is the new smoking, or so the current meme goes. Does that mean you should march down to HR and demand a standing desk? Maybe.

On the plus side, standing burns about 20 percent more energy than sitting, according to the Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group. The primary hangup with standing is, sometimes it can hurt.

A certain part of the population is more or less “standing intolerant” due to leg or back pain, according to Jay Kapellusch, associate professor of occupational science at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. At advertising agency Hoffman York, there are some 20 “sit-to-stand” desks that convert quickly from one to the other. Angie Buchanan, vice president/account supervisor, weighs in on what it’s like working this way.

➞ Being on your feet for just an hour at a time seems to reverse sleepiness and lethargy, says Buchanan. It takes you out of the afternoon slump.

➞ Standing desks are more popular in Europe and have caught on in Milwaukee among younger employees.

➞ Using a “negative tilt” angled slightly away from the body eases wrist strain and helps keep good posture. Buchanan is using a positive tilt here but can change the angle if needed.

➞ Fine work, including lengthy reading, may be hard to perform standing, says UWM’s Kapellusch. “Most people can’t stand very still and tend to sway back and forth.”

➞ Standing for long periods of time, including at a standing desk, can slightly increase one’s risk of developing varicose veins.

‘Take a Stand’ appears in Milwaukee Health, a special issue from Milwaukee Magazine.

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Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.