Throughout history, health fads have come and gone. From jazzercise to aerobics to cross fit, a new “healthy” fad is presented to the public every few years, and we are all told we must take part to be healthy. One of the latest trends is that of the standing desk. While standing desks may be healthier for you, are they good for your knees?
Standing desks are, generally speaking, good for every part of your body. This is the case provided you are using them properly. So yes, standing desks can be good for your knees when using the desk correctly and standing appropriately.
It is important to remember that if you do anything improperly, it can cause damage to your joints. Therefore, if you stand properly and take rest breaks at different points throughout the day, your knees and the rest of your joints should be just fine.
Using a Standing Desk
Standing desks became a fad a few years ago after people began complaining about being uncomfortable sitting at a desk all day. With the rise of people working on computers, it became apparent that people were becoming too passive.
The answer seemed simple: create a desk which allows people to stand while still working at their computer, after all, it is better, is it not? While it is better to some degree, there are certainly benefits and drawbacks to using a standing desk every day.
Benefits of a Standing Desk
As noted above, there are several benefits of utilizing a standing desk while working all day. Potential pros include:
- Additional calories burned
- Less back pain
- More productivity
Additional Calories Burned
Several studies have shown that the average person who works at a computer all day burns roughly 80 calories a day. While standing at a desk and working, the average person burns roughly eight additional calories a day, bringing the total to 88.
While that is not much of an increase, anything beyond what you normally would burn a day is positive. Now, that does not mean that you will lose excessive amounts of weight from those additional eight calories a day. It certainly does not harm anything.
Plus, those additional eight calories come from standing alone. When you are standing already, you are more likely to walk and move, which will burn even more calories.
Less Joint Pain
Sitting at a desk all day is not a natural position for anyone to be in, especially those of you that may slouch while working as you get tired or frustrated. Sitting in any position all day is not good for your back and will increase back pain.
Whereas standing at a desk, provided you take breaks throughout the day, helps your back as you are not in a sitting position for numerous hours a day. While there is no exact amount of time defined by doctors as the magic number of hours to help your back, standing is better than sitting.
Additionally, standing, provided you are doing it properly, is a good way to keep the blood flowing to your knees and joints. Several studies suggest that utilizing a standing desk helps those with knee pain typically associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
A study was conducted of call center employees, some who sat to perform their duties and some who stood. According to this study, the people who stood at their desks were 45 percent more productive than those who sat.
While there is no clear answer as to why standing at a desk makes employees more productive, it could simply be because they feel healthier while doing so. After all, standing and taking occasional walk breaks is far better for the body than sitting down all day long.
Negatives of a Standing Desk
While there are many benefits of using a standing desk, some negatives come along with using one. Potential cons include:
- Leg pain
- Knee pain
- Foot pain
- Vein problems
Leg, Knee, and Foot Pain
Generally, standing at a desk all day long instead of sitting is healthier for the average person. However, if you do not stand properly and/or stand without taking adequate breaks, your legs, knees, and feet will begin to remind you to sit down.
Standing for long periods without sitting, regardless of what you are doing, will add additional strain to your joints, especially your knees. The pain felt can be minimized by:
- Shifting your body weight
- Getting a pad to stand on
- Taking sitting breaks on occasion
- Having proper shoes
Shift Body Weight
While you are standing for long periods when working at your standing desk, make sure that you shift your weight often. Shifting your weight around will prevent all joints from taking the same amount of pressure for long periods. It will also prevent you from locking your knees which can cause you to pass out.
Use a Standing Pad
One of the ways to combat fatigue and/or pain in your joints from standing is getting a proper pad to stand on, known as an anti-fatigue pad or mat. These mats are made of specialized material designed to absorb the weight from your body in a way that would be similar to standing on a bed.
These pads are usually made of foam and are designed to reduce the pressure felt on your joints while you stand. If you are going to stand at your desk all day long, you should consider obtaining one from Amazon, where they sell for roughly $40.
Take Sitting Breaks
Some of you may think that sitting breaks are ridiculous once you have made the change to a standing desk. However, it is necessary to take sitting breaks at different points throughout the day to minimize stress on your body and joints.
There are no specific time frames available regarding how many sitting breaks you should take a day or for how long. However, the best way to determine how often you should sit and for how long is by listening to your body.
If your body and joints start to ache and feel painful, sit down until that sensation subsides. Once your body feels rested, feel free to stand again until your body tells you otherwise.
Wear Proper Shoes
If you are going to start standing at your desk while working, in addition to an anti-fatigue mat, make sure that you purchase a pair of comfortable shoes. Shoes with proper padding and support will allow you to stand for long periods without developing any pain.
Standing on your feet all day can not only negatively impact your knees and joints but will also affect your veins. Standing too long without breaks could cause your veins to:
- Collect too much blood
- Stretch out
Standing on your legs all day long could cause your veins to collect unnecessary amounts of blood. Additionally, the veins may stretch to accommodate the extra blood, which will, in turn, weaken them, causing varicose veins or other conditions that could ultimately force you to have surgery.
Good Standing Desk Habits
To ensure that using a standing desk will not cause pain in your knees or any other parts of your body, you should take care to follow some simple rules. First, while standing is perfectly fine and healthy for your knees and joints, it is not healthy for any part of your body to stand for an entire day.
Make sure that you take time throughout the day to sit down and take a break. As stated above, there is no clear indicator of how many sit breaks you should take or how long they should be. Listen to your body. If your knees or other joints start to ache, it is time to sit down for a bit.
Take time to walk around about once an hour instead of just standing at your desk all day. This allows the blood to flow properly throughout the body and gives your joints a rest from remaining in the same position all day long.
When standing at your desk, ensure that you are not locking your knees. Keep them slightly bent. Locking your knees could reduce blood flow throughout your body which could ultimately cause you to pass out.
When it comes to using a standing desk at work, there is sufficient data available from studies that suggest that a standing desk is good for your knees and other joints. This is especially true if you are experiencing knee pain caused by more of a sedentary lifestyle than an active one.
Hamid Tahir is a Mechatronics Engineer and founder of WFH Overload. He is currently working from home and is dedicated to the continuous improvement of his home office setup. Hamid has extensive experience setting up workspaces and dealing with the related tech. He hopes to share his knowledge to help you create the most productive and comfortable work from home setup. Read More