Well, if NPR says it’s true, then the science must be true.
I’ve been itching to get a standing desk. After all, America’s sitting itself into an early grave. Sitting is the new smoking. Clearly, a standing desk would stop me from sitting, and standing is just so much better for you than sitting, right?
Contrary to popular belief, science does not say so.
Too much sitting increases heart failure risk and disability risk, and shortens life expectancy, studies have found. But according to an analysis published Wednesday of 20 of the best studies done so far, there’s little evidence that workplace interventions like the sit-stand desk or even the flashier pedaling or treadmill desks will help you burn lots more calories, or prevent or reverse the harm of sitting for hours on end.
Stop the presses. Standing at work doesn’t work? And it may get worse.
In fact, there isn’t really any evidence that standing is better than sitting, Verbeek adds. The extra calories you burn from standing over sitting for a day are barely enough to cover a couple of banana chips.
“The idea you should be standing four hours a day? There’s no real evidence for that,” he says. “I would say that there’s evidence that standing can be bad for your health.” A 2005 study in Denmark showed prolonged standing at work led to a higher hospitalization risk for enlarged veins.
Standing is as bad as sitting? Are we at end times? Look to the heavens for the Four Horses of the Ancient Apocalypse: White, black, red, and pale. And, good grief, this is coming to you from that noted peer review source, NPR!
Best of all, if you read the Cochrane Review paper NPR observes, you’ll discover that NPR did a pretty good job of summarizing the paper. Recall that the Cochrane Review operates as a kind of jury system as credentialed experts collect and evaluate evidence on a health TACT, then review it under specific and pre-stated rules. This is not like my favorite last line from the Book Of Judges where everyone does what is right in their own mind. Nope. Everyone agrees to the Rules (or Laws!) first, and acts accordingly. Begin with the good data.
We included 20 studies, two cross-over RCTs, 11 RCTs, three cRCTs and four CBAs, with a total of 2180 participants from high income nations. The studies evaluated physical workplace changes (nine studies), policy changes (two studies), information and counselling (seven studies) and interventions from multiple categories (two studies). One study had both physical workplace changes and information and counselling components. We did not find any studies that had investigated the effect of periodic breaks or standing or walking meetings.
After reviewing these studies that meet higher quality standards of research, the authors concluded:
At present there is very low to low quality evidence that sit-stand desks may decrease workplace sitting between thirty minutes to two hours per day without having adverse effects at the short or medium term. There is no evidence on the effects in the long term. There were no considerable or inconsistent effects of other interventions such as changing work organisation or information and counselling. There is a need for cluster-randomised trials with a sufficient sample size and long term follow-up to determine the effectiveness of different types of interventions to reduce objectively measured sitting time at work.
Sure, More Research! Well, that’s not true. More scientific research! Although, given the dead data from good studies we’ve already got, somebody is going to have invent a Magic Bullet to make standing better than sitting at least at work.
And you can believe this not because of that scientific jibber-jabber from the Cochrane Review. Believe it because NPR says it’s true!
Of course, about the same number of Other Guys listen to NPR as read the Cochrane Review, so the persuasion possibilities for Sitting Versus Standing still remain. You can sell a lot of grant applications or treadmill desks to Other Guys. Just put a lot of spangles, shimmies, and shakes on it and you’ll be fine.
But whether you stand or sit: DON’T DRINK MOUNTAIN DEW. That will definitely kill you.