Sitting or Standing Workstation- Which is Better?

Which is better, a standing workstation or a seated workstation? This is a common question, yet there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer.

Sitting versus standing at the workplace has been the focus of several recent media reports. This is due to published data suggesting that prolonged standing burns more calories than sitting. Experts say prolonged sitting can be associated with a wide variety of health issues.

Currently, researchers are telling us we should get out of our office chairs and stand at our workstations because we’ll burn more calories. Standing burns 40% more calories than sitting. Standing for 2.5 hours a day can burn 350 calories (or about 20 pounds per working year!)

However, before we get rid of our office chairs, we may want to also understand the health consequences associated with prolonged standing which include:

  • work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the legs, knees and lower back
  • varicose veins
  • joint damage
  • foot problems
  • stroke
  • heart and circulatory problems
  • pregnancy difficulties

So, how do you choose between a standing workstation and a seated one? Research shows that both prolonged standing and sitting can be a problem. It is not an “either-or” situation. A more responsible approach is to recommend a combination of sitting and standing activities throughout the day.

Here are some proposed guidelines for sit/stand workstations to minimize the health consequences:

  • Limit continuous sitting to 4 hours /day.
  • Limit continuous standing to 1 hour/day.
  • Limit cumulative standing to 4 hours/day.
  • Promote variation between sitting and standing positions throughout the day.
  • Design a workstation for active movement while sitting and standing.

To learn more about preventing MSDs in your workplace, please check out OSHAcademy’s course 711- Introduction to Ergonomics.