Standing desks vs sitting: why sitting ISN'T slowly killing you

You’re *sitting* at your desk working away, deep in flow, when you notice out of the corner of your eye someone staring at you.

Ignoring it at first, you continue to type away at your computer, but as the feeling of staring daggers grows stronger, it gets harder and harder to resist the urge of looking up and seeing who the culprit is.

Finally, you glance away from your screen and lock eyes with Susan in accounting — who is standing upright with perfect posture at her brand spanking new standing desk.

With complete confusion, you raise your eyebrows and mouth “what” — an appropriate response for someone who has felt like a zoo animal for the past fifteen minutes.

She stares at you a little longer, sadly shakes her head and then continues to work.

With growing insecurity you take a moment to ponder what’s going on — then it hits you. You’re sitting.

After a quick WebMD search you realize that at any moment you could drop dead in your office at the young age of 32 — that night you spend a grand on a standing desk.

“Oh, you haven’t heard? Sitting is the new smoking…”

Raise your hand if you’re tired of hearing the fear-inducing phrase — sitting is the new smoking?

Or, perhaps, tired of feeling like you’re minutes away from a date with the grim reaper because you refuse to drop an entire paycheck on a fancy hydraulic, slip resistant, levitating, hydro-cooled standing desk?

I’m not entirely sure when simply sitting in a chair became linked to one hundred and one various life-threatening diseases (like Type 2 Diabetes).

Since a few studies came out that said it might be detrimental to one’s health, standing desks have been flying off the shelves like hotcakes — an ironic comparison considering that one too many hotcakes might result in one developing Type 2 Diabetes — not simply sitting.

In addition to the hotcake argument, a study on the effects of sitting published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine tracked 5,000 folks over the course of thirteen years and found absolutely no correlation between sitting and developing life-threatening diseases like diabetes.

A worker standing at their desk

However, one Google search on the effects of sitting can leave even the most stable minded individuals panicking.

While neither of us has the time nor energy to pick apart every single argument out there on the effects of sitting, I am going to bring up another point — standing might have just as many health implications.

Why standing may not be the answer either.

Perhaps what sparked the standing desk movement was a study done a while back that made an extraordinarily bold claim:

Sitting for just three hours a day is responsible for 430,000 deaths across 54 countries.

This is where the solution came into the picture — the standing desk. It seemed logical and perhaps simple enough — the average human drops dead if they sit for more than three hours a day, so they can stand for the other five.

However, recent studies have surfaced that say:

Standing for just two hours a day can lead to swelling in the lower limbs, increased discomfort and a substantial drop in cognitive function and in turn overall productivity.

So… risk dropping dead from sitting or risk losing your job from standing… what’s the answer?

But wait, before you make up your mind, there is more. There was another study published that showed prolonged standing could increase chances of heart diseases due to blood pooling in the legs and increasing pressure in the veins — a worrisome finding considering more than 630,000 people die from heart disease each year in the United States alone.

So, the decision is no longer sit and die or stand and not be productive… but rather… sit and die or stand and die…

Perhaps, we should just concentrate on doing good work and living healthier.

While I’m not a doctor, I suspect all of the buzz around standing desks could potentially be overhyped.

At Jotform, we offer our +110 employees both standing and normal desks.

Employees standing and sitting in the Jotform office
A random photo from Jotform offices.

Moderation is good for business and for our bodies.

It isn’t black or white, nor should we abandon one of the two and replace the entire office with the other once a new study suggests the opposite.

We can balance both sitting & standing and keep things in moderation by focusing on our overall diet, exercise habits and overall lifestyle.

In fact, here are a few very simple lifestyle changes I think we should be focusing more of our attention on than fighting tooth and nail over whether or not sitting is going to kill us.

  1. Walk for 30-minutes a day — if you cut your lunch break in half and walk for just 30-minutes each day, you lower your risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and High Blood Pressure. In addition, you sharpen your focus, strengthen your memory and enhance your overall mood.
  2. Drink eight glasses of water a day — by simply drinking enough water each day you lower your risk of developing high blood pressure. Water also strengthens your immune system allowing your white blood cells to better fight colds and the flu.
  3. Cut back on fried foods — this goes without saying but eating junk can lead to nasty diseases that have also been associated with “sitting” — heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. So, by simply choosing healthier options during your lunch breaks, you’re preventing many of the diseases that sitting supposedly causes.
  4. Develop a daily workout routine — I started my daily workout routine a while back when I was looking to improve my overall health and improve my energy so I could be a better asset to JotForm. After just a few short weeks of working out, I was blown away by the increase I saw in my mood, focus, and motivation. But, besides helping you from a mental and emotional standpoint, exercising daily can also decrease your chances of developing chronic diseases.
Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of Jotform and the bestselling author of Automate Your Busywork. A developer by trade but a storyteller by heart, he writes about his journey as an entrepreneur and shares advice for other startups. He loves to hear from Jotform users. You can reach Aytekin from his official website

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