Are Sit-Stand Desks Good for Health?

Peter Russell

March 18, 2016

Desks designed to let you stand up or sit down at work have become more popular recently. However, do they boost your health and fitness?

For millions of us, work means sitting behind a desk for hours each day, and this inactivity often comes at a price. Health experts warn that long periods of sitting can increase the risk of heart disease and contribute towards being overweight or obese.

Sit-Stand Desks

One option for office workers that has been growing in popularity is the sit-stand desk which, as the name suggests, allows you to either sit at your work station or stand.

Now, a Cochrane Review, published in the Cochrane Library, assesses the health benefits of these trendy items of furniture.

A team of international researchers examined 20 studies involving a total of 2,174 participants from the UK, the US and Europe.

Sitting Less

The review found little good quality evidence about the benefits of sit-stand desks. In 6 of the studies, involving 218 people, there was some evidence to suggest that people who used them sat between 30 minutes and 2 hours less, compared to when they used conventional desks during the working day.

Also, standing more did not produce harmful effects in the studies, such as musculoskeletal pain, varicose veins or a decrease in productivity.

Other interventions aimed at reducing inactivity such as taking a walk during breaks at work did not change the amount of time people sat during the working day, the researchers found.

Poor Quality Evidence

However, the authors stress that the quality of evidence available for review was poor, mainly because of the way the studies were constructed and the small number of participants involved.

Nipun Shrestha from the Health Research and Social Development Forum in Nepal, who led the investigation, comments in a statement: "This Cochrane Review shows that, at the moment, there is uncertainty over how big an impact sit-stand desks can make on reducing the time spent sitting at work in the short term. There is also low quality evidence of modest benefits for other types of interventions.

"Given the popularity of sit-stand desks in particular, we think that people who are considering investing in sit-stand desks and the other interventions covered in this review should be aware of the limitations of the current evidence base in demonstrating health benefits.

"We need further research to assess the effectiveness of different types of interventions for reducing sitting time in workplaces in both the short and long term. The evidence base would be improved with larger studies, longer follow-up and research from low income countries."

Cochrane is a not-for-profit organisation which produces reviews of the best available evidence on health issues.


'Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work, N Shrestha et al, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016.

Press release, Wiley.


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