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Sitting Desk vs Standing Desk – which is right for you?

March 11, 2019

You have probably heard of how long hours of sitting time is bad for you. You may have even seen a stand up desk which allows you to work while standing. Is it true that standing is better? A sitting versus standing desk – which should you go for?

Benefits of a Standing Desk

1. Standing expends more energy

A study has shown that for a person weighing 65 kilograms, standing burns 0.15 kcal per minute more than sitting. This means that over a period of six hours, this person would expend an additional 54 kcal by standing instead of sitting. To put it in more a relatable manner, this would mean burning away 2.5 kilograms in a year!

This could be due to a reduction in lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity in our leg muscles when we are seated. LPL is an enzyme that breaks down fat molecules in our blood vessels. When LPL activity is reduced, less fat molecules will be broken down.

In addition, there are also studies showing that a person’s blood sugar levels go back to normal more quickly after a meal on days when more time is spent standing. Having high blood sugar levels for a prolonged period of time can increase the risk of heart diseases.

2. Standing has a lower load on the lumbar discs

Lumbar discs absorb shock between our vertebrae. Lumbar discs are vital as they help to support and allow movement in our upper body. Different movement that we make and different positions that we are in will have varying levels of impact on our lumbar discs.

Research has found that sitting puts 40% more pressure on our lumbar discs as compared to standing. When seated, sitting upright also puts less pressure on our lumbar discs than when leaning forward. What can we learn from this? No matter you are sitting or standing at work, your posture is also very important!

lower back pain in office

Disadvantages of a Standing Desk

1. Long hours of standing may not be good for those with joint issues

Is standing for 8 hours bad? The answer is “Yes”! Prolonged standing results in lower blood supply to our leg muscles, resulting in greater muscle fatigue or even pain. Health risks of standing all day on a regular basis include swelling of the legs, varicose veins, lower back pain, etc.

Standing also exerts more pressure on your knees as they have to bear the weight of your upper body. Hence, those with existing joint issues may experience more significant impact from extended period of standing.

2. Long hours of standing may increase likelihood of heart diseases

As mentioned previously, prolonged standing can cause swelling in the legs, when blood starts pooling. This will make it harder for your heart to pump the blood pooling in your legs back up.

Standing for an extended period of time may also cause greater oxidative stress, which has been associated with cardiovascular diseases.

So what’s the verdict?

I have to say that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Whether a sitting or stand up desk is more suitable for you depends on a range of factors such as your physical condition, your body weight, if you have orthopedic issues, and so on.

It also depends on your work requirement. For example, tasks that require fine motor skills like drawing and writing are more suited to be done seated.

If you would like to have both options of sitting and standing while working, a sit-to-stand height adjustable desk will fit the bill. An adjustable standing desk allows you to easily switch between sitting and standing. You can enjoy the best of both worlds!

5 Tips to make your work hours more comfortable

Now, be it sitting or standing, I would also like to add on some other tips to make your work hours more comfortable!

take water breaks

Tip 1: Everything in moderation

I believe the adage of moderation applies. Too much of sitting down or standing up both can be detrimental.

Whether you choose to sit or stand, you should go for a quick walk every hour to get your blood flowing. Go for a toilet break or head to the pantry to fill up your water bottle.

Tip 2: Avoid high heels

Ladies, avoid your high heels as much as possible! Wearing high heels exerts additional pressure on your knees and lower back. You should not be wearing high heels no matter you are sitting or standing.

If possible, change into a pair of flats when you are at your desk. A pair of simple flats look presentable too, and you can always switch back to your high heels when going for meetings. If flats are not an option for you, go for lower heels to minimise the impact on your knees and lower back.

Tip 3: Be supported when standing

Standing at work is not as simple as it seems. If you choose to stand while working, you will need a standing desk foot rest or an anti-fatigue mat to act as a cushion and absorb shock. This is especially important if you are working from home and choose to stand barefooted.

On top of that, you will also need to find shoes that are properly fitted and can give you sustained support over the hours that you spend standing. Qualities to look out for would be shock absorption, material, and fit.

  • Shock absorption: The shoes should have enough cushion and padding to cater to your feet.
  • Material: Aspects to look out for with regard to the shoes’ material would be durability, breathability, etc.
  • Fit: Everyone’s feet are different – some have high arches while others have low arches – so the shoes needed would be different too.

Tip 4: Slowly transition into standing

If you choose to stand, don’t jump straight into standing at work all day! You should start by working standing up for 30 minutes a day, then increase it to 60 minutes a day, and so on.

Allow your body to gradually adjust to your new working mode. Once you start feeling discomfort or even pain, find out what could be causing it and rectify the issue first before progressing further.

Tip 5: Other interesting options

If you are feeling generous, you can try a treadmill desk which allows you to walk while working. This means your body will not be in a stationary position for too long. A treadmill desk costs a small fortune so I would suggest you do plenty of research first before committing to one.

Otherwise, you can go for a much more affordable option which is a balance ball, also known as exercise ball or stability ball. Sitting on a balance ball will force you to engage your core muscles in order to stay upright.

However, you will need to ensure your desk is at the right height for you when you are seated on the exercise ball. Likewise, the previous tip of slowly transitioning into your new working mode applies here as well.

TL;DR? Here are the points for a quick glance through.

Reasons for a Standing Desk:

  1. Standing expends more energy
  2. Standing has a lower load on the lumbar discs

Reasons for a Sitting Desk:

  1. Long hours of standing may not be good for those with joint issues
  2. Long hours of standing may increase likelihood of heart diseases

5 Tips to make your work hours more comfortable:

  1. Everything in moderation
  2. Avoid high heels
  3. Be supported when standing
  4. Slowly transition into standing
  5. Other interesting options

As we spend a significant amount of time working, I hope this post will help you in finding greater comfort at work. If you’ve tried a treadmill desk or stability ball, do share your thoughts and experiences on them!


Rin previously led a 9 to 6 desk-bound office lifestyle. After 6 years of rush hour train squeezing and lunchtime madness, she decided to make a switch and started working from home.

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Marc & Rin

We are a husband and wife team that are both working from home in Singapore. We share our experiences working from home and to impart our knowledge to others who are seeking to do the same. Learn more about us

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