Editor's note: This story was updated on September 21, 2017.
Although research indicates that prolonged sitting at work can damage your health, there's no good evidence that suggests standing desks can prevent that harm, according to a study published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
The study analyzed 20 of the most thorough studies on workplace sitting, which included more than 2,000 combined participants.
Even though these studies were the best of the bunch, the researchers concluded they weren't very good. Many weren't statistically significant, suffered from poor design, or didn't follow participants for a long enough time to gauge any health improvements.
"The idea you should be standing four hours a day? There's no real evidence for that," says Jos Verbeek, a health researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. "What we actually found is that most of it is, very much, just fashionable and not proven [to be] good for your health."
No proven link between standing, health
In fact, some evidence suggests that too much standing can be bad for you. A 2005 study showed that standing at work for long periods of time led to higher risk of enlarged veins. But in all, moderate standing hasn't been proven to hurt, or help, your health.
"The state of the science is definitely early," says Lucas Carr, a professor at the University of Iowa. "There needs to be longer studies with more people to get a good sense these desks actually cause people to stand"—and whether those who do stand see any significant health benefits.
While companies shouldn't expect standing desk to cure their workers' ailments, there are other ways to get employees moving throughout the day, Verbeek says, such as moving all printers to a centralized location (Chen, "Shots," NPR, 3/17).
Occupational health and beyond—get solutions from wellness services to preventive care
Considering your position in the growing direct-to-employer market? Our research report will help you identify innovative solutions in occupational health and beyond to appeal to a range of employer partners looking to manage workforce health and their costs.
The solutions in our brief span occupational medicine, preventive care, wellness services, and specialty services—and they all deliver on the primary outcome employers seek through partnership: lowered health care costs.
Read the Report
Next in the Daily Briefing
Some CEOs talk about 'my team.' Here's why UNC Health Care's CEO won't.