Does your neck or spine hurt? Is the majority of your day spent working at a desk? After you return from work, do you spend another few hours in front of your computer?
Fact is, we spend more and more of our lives sitting: at work, in cafes, at home, etc. All this sitting, however, has serious effects on our bodies.
Negative effects of long sitting periods.
The first issue to appear is muscle stiffnes and pain, especially around the neck or in the shoulders. Over time, often years, the issue gets worse and there is a high probability of spinal degenerations forming, such as scoliosis.
Sitting puts stress on the spine. Our main body scaffolding is made of bone chunks (vertebrae) separated by flexible and resilient discs (intervertebral discs) that serve as elastic pads that give the spine the possibility to retract or expand to some degree. Sitting pressures the intervertebral discs, and when they are compressed for long periods of time, they begin to malfunction.
On top of spinal and muscle problems, sitting for long periods of time also leads to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, or strokes. Lack of physical activity, bad diet, and being overweight are also factors that increase those risks.
The standing desk, a game changer?
The standing desk on its own will not solve any of those problems if your lifestyle is unhealthy, but it may help reduce the risks.
Using a standing desk will not remove existing problems, but will help prevent development of malformations and will soothe muscle pain. Unfortunately, we often start looking for solutions when the issue is well developed (typically after many years of unhealthy sitting habits and lifestyle). If you are already experiencing issues, you should be going to a doctor to assess the scale of the problem and refer you to the correct specialists to receive treatment. While using a standing desk will not make healing faster, it will stop the worsening of symptoms.
If you see an advertisement on the desk producer's website that using a standing desk will make you burn calories or help with weight loss, be aware that it is not the case. Standing consumes hardly more calories than sitting - a mere 0.2 calorie a minute different for men and 0.1 for women, meaning that men, standing for a whole 14 hours in a day consumes a little less than 200 calories - that's a glass of milk.
Many people who end up buying a standing desk then proceed to make the mistake of standing all day long, instead of sitting. This will only change the type of issues - instead of developing shoulder and neck pain, they will develop back and leg pains. Ideal use should be alternating between sitting and standing.
A standing desk is a something that encourages and enables you to change your position during work or leisure. It gives you more flexibility and is healthier, but is not a solution to fix existing problems. It is a healthy change to adopt before problems arise.
The main advantage is that alternating regularly between sitting and standing allows you to reduce some of the negative effects of our lifestyle. It is a helpful tool to use to remain healthy despite being forced to sit throughout a day.
Three types of standing desk:
The MINI desk that acts like a small elevator that you can put on your normal desk, then adjust its height when it's time to stand. I strongly do not recommend using it. As an addition to your usual work space, it will reduce it and might make it uncomfortable if you were already short. Even in its lowest position, it also raises the minimal height of your desk, so when you really want to sit (and your desk has just one set height that happens to be decent), you might have to remove it with all the stuff like cables, monitor, papers etc, or at the very least adjust the height of your chair to compensate. The design is a decent addition to existing desks if buying a whole new one is not feasible, but completely non-ergonomic.
The manual standing desk is the cheaper version of electric counterpart, but I also do not recommend it. The idea of alternating between standing and sitting is that you have to change position frequently (every couple hours). Manually lifting and lowering the desk to adjust its height is extra stress you put on your shoulders that could be avoided. It should make our life easier, but we don't need another distraction. It will become an extra paid unused feature.
If you are planning to buy one of these, your biggest benefit is that you can at least adjust it to your own height perfectly which in itself is a useful feature. It can also be a viable option if you work from home and primarily use a notebook. In that case you can have two desks - a standard one for sitting and one for standing, moving your computer from one to the other when needed. It's far from ideal but a fairly good choice when your budget is limited.
The electric standing desk. If you are convinced that you need such a tool, it is only the only reasonable choice. The major downside is that it is more expensive than the alternatives, but I have tried it and would recommend it.
As for which electric standing desk to pick - it really depends on your budget.
One of the cheaper options is Ikea Bekant:
It can be easily bought almost everywhere and it's not a particularly bad desk either. However, the quality of it could be better - it's slow at moving up and down, only provides very minimalistic options (no presets for heights), and fasteners are nothing but cheap plastic that will very quickly wear down.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can find an Updesk UpWrite. It's significantly more expensive but it also comes with extra features such as:
- it can be written on like a whiteboard, a very useful feature for making quick notes, for instance when you are talking over the phone
- it comes with 4 preset heights
Of course, these are not all the options available. You will find many manufacturers, depending on where you live. In general however you should expect pricetags on these ones to be around 500€ (or dollars). It's a fairly costly investment but also the only one I can truly recommend as other options available are not really effective.