Standing desks are popular, but the risk they pose for vein health may offset other health benefits.
If you’re considering making some healthy lifestyle changes, you might have a standing desk on your list. But is this a sound investment for your body?
While standing desks are a major recent office health trend, there is mixed research on whether spending the day on your feet will actually lead to health benefits. In fact, jobs that require long periods of standing may put you at risk for vein problems.
The Risks of a Sedentary Lifestyle
Some 86% of U.S. workers sit during the work day, but research increasingly suggests a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health, and may even increase your risk of early death. You have a higher chance of being overweight, and can develop conditions like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more.
All that sitting can also put you at risk for certain vein conditions. Inactivity means that you aren’t getting as much circulation through your legs, while weight gain can put extra pressure on your veins. As you sit, blood pools in the legs, especially if they are bent, and this can lead to varicose veins and spider veins. In rarer cases long periods of sitting can actually cause deep vein thrombosis, a dangerous blood clot in your leg.
Are Standing Desks a Better Option?
As the risks of all-day sitting have become clear, many office workers have shown an increased interest in standing desks. These desks allow workers to stand, and are sometimes adjustable to allow switching between sitting and standing throughout the day. Many people swear by these contraptions, saying they improve posture and encourage more movement throughout the day.
However, doubt has been cast on the original studies regarding sedentary lifestyles. Some additional research has suggested that the link is not as clear as originally thought, and may in fact be attributable to other causes, like socioeconomic status. In addition, standing at work is not the same as walking, and does not provide the same health benefits as exercise.
At the same time, employees who have to stand for long periods — like those in the service industry, construction or nursing — are familiar with the problems of being on your feet all day. It can lead to a number of issues, including pain in the feet, knees, hips and lower back.
Standing for long periods is a known cause of vein issues. A study of 38,000 people in the journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found increased risk of varicose veins for those who stand or walk more than six hours a day. This comes with associated risks of heart failure and arterial disease. There is also a link to carotid atherosclerosis, the dangerous narrowing of the major arteries between the heart and brain.
A Middle Ground between Standing and Sitting Desks
A sitting-standing desk may provide relief in other ways — by relieving stress on the neck and shoulders, for example — but patients should keep in mind the potential connection between standing desks and vein health. Overall, the research suggests that patients with desk jobs should strive to strike a health balance between sitting, standing, and short walks throughout the work day. But above all it’s important to exercise, to get around 30 minutes of moderate activity for five days a week.
If you already have varicose veins or spider veins, rest or exercise unfortunately won’t reverse the condition. If you’d like to prevent further vein issues or ask a doctor about treatments, schedule a consultation with the experts at the Center for Vein Restoration.