We keeping hearing talk of how ‘sitting is the new smoking’, but is this sort of sensationalism really helpful when it comes to getting across the important message?

Variety is what really matters.

Let us nail our colours firmly to the mast here. We are not prescribing a switch from sitting all day to standing all day. We don’t want people to stay in ANY position ALL DAY. What we’re advocating is the use of sit-stand desks, as part of an agile working environment, to allow people to vary their working positions periodically; for them to embrace the opportunity to set their working surface to the correct height for the specific task at hand; and to avoid the perils of a sedentary lifestyle. Vitally, of course, no amount of standing up is going to save anyone if they don’t exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. Kicking the sitting habit is not a panacea.

There is no shortage of evidence that a sedentary lifestyle is perilous to health and productivity (see our previous blog posts for examples of supporting clinical research), but by simply increasing desks to a fixed higher position, all we end up with is a vertical, sedentary workforce, with sore feet and back problems. By opting for stable, easily adjustable, sit-stand desks, we are giving office workers the best of all worlds – defined by the word ‘choice’. They can vary their position according to the task in hand, give energy levels a boost by moving around to avoid the post lunch slump, or sit comfortably at a desk that works ergonomically in concert with their task chair; plus, if you’re sharing a desk in an agile working environment, the ability to adjust is even more welcome.

The ‘sitting is the new smoking’ scare tactic isn’t helpful at all, especially when it implies that we should be on our feet the majority of the time. A recent report questioned whether sitting is any worse for you than standing, yet made no mention of the benefits that varying your posture can bring. Predictably, a certain newspaper’s headline screamed: ‘Couch potatoes rejoice! Sitting for long periods is NOT bad for your health, study claims’. The NHS called this misinterpretation of the facts ‘incorrect and potentially dangerous’.

We need to move away from tabloid-press-style shock tactics and refocus our collective efforts on getting people to sit-up, stand-up, and even shake their funky stuff on occasion. Variety is the spice of life after all.