Height-adjustable desks, also called stand-sit-desks, have become more and more popular and common in equipping new workplaces. They quickly reached the status of a must-have in every office or home office and are gradually replacing conventional office desks. Producers promise less pain and muscle tensions, increased productivity and improved well-being. But are these claims really true? Does alternating between sitting and standing really have such a positive impact on our body and mind to consider sit-stand-desks a worthwhile investment? Or is it only a temporary hype, like exercising balls in the office?
Spoiler alert: As we are hardcore fans of adjustable desks, we of course have a clear bias on that topic. However, given that we too have worked on conventional static desks for a long time before, we feel credible enough to talk on the ergonomic benefits of movable desks.
In this article, we want to address four of the most common questions about height adjustable desks and explore the main question of whether sit-stand desks are an investment that really pays off. We will answer every of the four questions by means of four points that are proven by scientific research.
Disclaimer: Although this article was researched to the best of our knowledge, we are not physicians and are only passing on information. We do not grant healing, health or physical recovery. For further questions or existing injuries, we highly suggest seeing your doctor for medical advice.
1. Can sit-stand-desks reduce pain?
Walking, running, hunting, climbing, building, digging, swimming… There are a lot of things that nature considered while creating the human body. But, as a matter of fact, sitting is not one of those things. The human body simply isn’t meant to be in a sitting position for hours. If you are sitting every day, week or month for hours, you will sooner or later face pain and muscle tensions. The simple solution is to stand up. If you sit less, you can prevent pain caused by too much sitting. Here are four examples:
Adjustable desks minimize back pain
Back pain is one of the most common health consequences of excessive sitting. The DAK health report 2018 mentions back pain as the second most common diagnosis regarding sick days. Only non-specific pulmonary infections like a cold are more common. The effects on our economy are significant. The DAK health report mentions 9 billion which the German economy loses every year due to back pain. The loss of quality of life of the people concerned can’t be captured in numbers, but these data communicate the first impression of the stress and strains that the affected persons are challenged with every day.
Preserving a certain body position for a long time – like sitting in the office – stresses our body in an unnatural and unhealthy way. Alternating between sitting and standing reduces back pain up to 54%, as a study of the Center of Disease Control and Prevention shows. 
Adjustable desks reduce neck pain
When we sit, our spine forms a round shape, similar to the letter “C”. Over a long period of time, this body posture puts a strain on our neck – even when we are consciously sitting upright and straight. Muscle tensions are practically unavoidable.
Electric desks enable alternating between sitting and standing. In a standing position, the spine can straighten up, the round shape of the spine gets resolved and the neck muscles are relieved. A study of the U.S. National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine that was researching on the connection between sitting and neck pain, proved that people who are working in a standing position have about 28% less neck pain. 
You should be aware, however, that to avoid neck pain, a proper computer screen is essential as well. If you are working for hours on a laptop, you will sooner or later have to deal with neck tensions – even if you are standing.
Height-adjustable desks reduce shoulder pain
Back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain are usually accompanied one by another and you often can’t tell the difference. That is no surprise: When sitting, you’ll probably notice that you are bending forward and thereby sitting in a slumped posture. Thereby, your spine forms the unhealthy “C-shape”, as we described before, and your shoulders get rounded. This may seem comfortable, but in the long run it causes muscle tensions and pain.
Sit-stand-desks reduce leg pain
Sitting for hours affects our arteries, veins and thigh muscles. Blood circulation is limited and as a result we feel pain in our legs. Alternating between sitting and standing relieves arteries and veins and enables better circulation in our legs – even on long working days in the office.
2. Do stand-sit-desks help us stay healthy?
So far so good. Height adjustable desks can help minimizing pain and muscle tensions. But can they also help us stay healthy in the long run? The answer is yes. Even though standing isn’t a remedy or a miracle cure, it is still healthier than sitting.
Standing per se doesn’t keep you healthy but it can help to reduce or even prevent health consequences of too much sitting. Here we present four examples as well:
Height-adjustable desks help reduce the risk of diabetes
Moving regularly and physical activities are the best remedy for diabetes. It is no surprise that the lack of physical activity, like sitting for hours, is harmful to the body. Besides smoking, excess weight and a lack of exercise, sitting is one of the main risk factors causing diabetes. A Dutch study proved that only one hour of additional sitting per day increases the risk of diabetes for 22%.
On top of that, it doesn’t depend only on the time we spend in sitting overall, but rather how long we sit in one sitting (pun intended!). Prolonged periods of sitting without taking a break to stand up or to walk a little, appear to be an important risk factor in causing diabetes.  Accordingly, the American Diabetes Association recommends taking a short break every 30 minutes to stand up and move.
If you want to counter diabetes actively, you shouldn’t restrain your physical activity only to exercising in the gym, but instead regularly move in your everyday life – for instance with the help of a sit-stand-desk.
Adjustable desks might lower the risk of cancer
Different studies have already proven a connection between too much sitting and cancer. The American Cancer Society warns that sitting for more than 6 hours per day increases the risk of cancer drastically. The exact reason is still not clear but it is assumed that the lack of moving, which is caused by sitting for prolonged periods of time, facilitates morbid cell transformations. By alternating between sitting and standing we can prevent long periods without movement – even in our everyday office life.
Sit-stand-desks help relieve pressure on intervertebral discs
Intervertebral discs are affected by physical stress when we are sitting. In comparison to standing, there is 50% more pressure applied to our intervertebral discs when we are in a sitting position. The physical stress increases up to 100% if we are leaning forward when sitting. Standing up doesn’t only result in relieving our intervertebral discs but it also provides them with sufficient liquid. That way you can actively counter the risk of a disc prolapse.
Sit-stand-desks improve blood circulation
Tiredness and heavy legs: If blood circulation is limited, both our body and mind suffer. When sitting, there is a lot of pressure on our blood vessels. The static body posture causes a slower heartbeat and as a result our circulation and metabolism become very slow. This results in a feeling of exhaustion without having done physical work at all.
Switching between sitting and standing stimulates blood circulation and metabolism and cells are provided with more oxygen as well. The whole body benefits and our own well-being improves in different ways. We feel better, more alert and more awake. Thereby we can work more productively.
3. Can sit-stand-desks help us stay fit?
Adjustable desks improve our health in the long run and help reduce pain. But do they also contribute to us staying fit? In short, yes. The positive impacts of height-adjustable desks can be seen from the first day because the difference between the effects on your body when you are standing rather than sitting is huge.
Sit-stand-desks help strengthen bones and muscles
When sitting, your body starts to feel tired because the metabolism is dialing down, the circulation runs on a low-energy mode. Due to the lack of physical activity, your bones and muscles will become weak permanently. A body that is “sleeping” for 8 hours a day in the office just doesn’t get the training that it needs to stay fit and healthy.
You will feel the difference when working on a height adjustable desk for the first time. If you were always working for 8 hours a day in a sitting position before, it may be difficult to work standing upright at first and you will need more breaks to sit down. No worries, you will get used to it pretty fast and before you even know, you will not be able to imagine sitting still during your everyday office life anymore.
It is a kind of a physical training that you can do while working and it has a huge effect!
Adjustable desks help you stay in shape
Throw out your diet plans, stop exercising in the gym, and get a sit-stand desk instead? Well, here we need to relent. Physical activity and a healthy diet are still the basis of staying in shape. Sit-stand-desks are nevertheless a worthwhile addition.
Dr. John Buckley from the University of Chester proved in a study that on average the heart beats 10 times more in a minute when we are standing. That are 0,7 calories more per minute. Even if this doesn’t seem much: On a normal 8-hour workday, this sums up to 336 (!) calories more. If you stand up for only 2 hours per day when working, you can already burn more than 400 calories in one workweek.
Sit-stand-desks strengthen torso, legs and gluteal muscles
Waist, legs, butt: The muscles around the middle of our bodies are often in the focus of our individual fitness regimes. And justifiably so: Our torso muscles enable us to walk upright. Back and core muscles are essential in preventing later posture injuries and the pain that comes with them.
When sitting, you enable your back and abdominal muscles to relax. If you stand up, on the other hand, your torso muscles get activated automatically and are being trained at the same time. The same goes for gluteal and leg muscles. To be able to stand, our muscles need to work together actively – a training effect that is both subtle and effective!
Adjustable desks are the perfect addition to your workout
Okay. You are sitting for 8 hours at work but in exchange you go to the gym everyday in the evening? That should be enough to balance it, right? Various scientific studies say: no, that’s not enough. Sitting for the most part of the day and being physically active only once per day is just like eating cake during the whole day and then eating a salad for dinner.
Of course, physical activity to some extent is still better than not moving at all. But if you really want good training results, you should stay physically active during work as well. When standing, your body muscles work more actively than when sitting. Your body doesn’t get tired.
This training effect is even more intense if you use the standing position for exercises. Stand on one leg, try out the yoga “tree” pose, circle your shoulders and hips – get creative and use your working time to stay active. Your body will appreciate it.
4. Do stand-sit-desks improve your well-being?
Less pain, improved health and fitness… And therefore better mental health? The obvious answer is yes. If you suffer from less pain, if you are healthier and in a better shape, you’ll probably be happier overall than someone who needs to deal with muscle tensions and other health related problems. But sit-stand desks-can positively affect your psyche in other ways too.
Adjustable desks have a positive impact on your mood
Everyone knows how it goes: We spend the whole day sitting in our office and in the evening we are so tired that we just want to lay down on the couch and relax for the rest of the day. But this exhaustion is only partially a result of the work that we have been doing the whole day.
Sitting for a prolonged period of time results in slowing down our circulation. This triggers something in our body: It is time to relax and to go to sleep. Therefore, it is no surprise that we are exhausted after 8 hours in the office. Our bodies feel like we just woke up after 8 hours of work – tired and like going back to sleep. Standing up, on the other hand, stimulates blood circulation and the metabolism and provides additional oxygen to the cells. Therefore, we feel better, more awake, rested – and happier as well.
As a matter of fact, there are scientific studies that prove the connection between sitting and depression. A research by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that women who sit more than seven hours per day are at a 47% higher risk to suffer from depression than women who sit less than four hours per day.
Height-adjustable desks promote brain activity
Our brain and mind benefit from the positive effects of alternating between sitting and standing as well. Often we get inspired, a new idea comes up or we think of the solution for a problem when we stand up and move from our workplace. Sit-stand-desks enable us to combine work and movement. By being physically active, the brain receives more oxygen: In return, we feel more awake, fit and concentrated.
Adjustable desks may boost confidence and reduce stress
There is no need for discussion: In today’s worklife we can’t entirely avoid stress. But we can determine the way in which we will handle the stress. There are lots of tricks that can help us to confront the stress and overtax in our everyday life. In doing so, body posture plays an important role. If you are consciously standing upright, you will feel more self-conscious, as research by social psychologists has shown.
In her TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains the connections between body posture and psyche and clarifies how body posture affects the hormonal balance. She also reveals how we can use this connection effectively and benefit from in our everyday life.
Only by being self-conscious, we can handle pressure and stress over long periods of time. What “stress” means to us only partially depends on external circumstances – but it has a lot to do with how we react to those circumstances.
Sit-stand-desks have a positive impact on our quality of life
To summarize: adjustable desks do not only help reduce pain and prevent illness, they also improve our mental well-being and efficiency. More and more businesses are investing in height-adjustable desks and they have certain reasons for it.
If you buys a sit-stand-desk and realize afterwards that working when sitting still suits you better, you could effortlessly keep working in a sitting position on the new desk. For every other person, a completely new work experience starts. A study by the International Journal of Workplace Health Management shows the effect of height-adjustable desks precisely. The results are less back-, neck- and shoulder pain, more energy, better concentration and thereby increased productivity and an improvement in the quality of life as well. These are some of the changes that the majority of the study participants reported on.
Less back pain
A study* shows that by alternating between sitting and standing back pain can be reduced up to 54%.
More calories burned
While standing, more muscles are activated. An American study* proved that sit-stand-desks can thereby stimulate weightloss.
An American study* showed that people who are sitting for long periods of time are at a higher risk of suffering from depression.
Sitting is stressful both physically and mentally. In contrast to that, standing stimulates our metabolism and blood circulation. A study* proved that our productivity benefits from that too.
Does investing in an adjustable desk pay off?
The trend towards sit-stand-desks is far more than just a temporary hype. More and more studies are proving that working on movable desks is simply the better way of working. After only a year of working on sit-stand-desks, people – and we as a team, report on the various benefits for their health, well-being and productivity.
Nothing more to say – Dare the change from your conventional desk to a height-adjustable one. The benefits will show both immediately and in the long run. Money that you spend on your own health and well-being is always an investment that pays off.
It’s time to stand up!