Standing Desks Cause Physical and Mental Pain and Simply Taking a Break Might Be Better, Study Finds

Whether you sit or stand, office work is still unhealthy/ WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images

Standing desks may not live up to the hype. A new Australian study suggests that standing at your desk for too long is bad for your health and your concentration. Rather, a happy medium between sitting and standing may be better than any one extreme.

For a study published online in Ergonomics, researchers at Curtin University in Australia had 20 volunteers stand at a computer desk in a laboratory for two hours. The team recorded changes in volunteers' physical discomfort and cognitive function. Results showed that all of the volunteers reported physical discomfort in all areas of their bodies that increased over time as they stood at the desk. This was particularly observed in lower limb swelling.

Related: Standing At Work Is Just As Unhealthy A Smoking Cigarettes Daily, Study Says

In addition, all volunteers also reported that their overall mental state decreased the longer that they stood at the desks. However, not all results were negative. The standing desk did seem to improve creative problem-solving skills in the volunteers. Based on these results, the study concluded that standing desks be used with care and that workers should understand the health risks associated with prolonged use.

"The bottom line is that this expansion [of standing desks] has been driven more by commercial reasons than scientific evidence," Alan Taylor, a physiotherapy expert at Nottingham University not affiliated with the research told The Chicago Tribune. "But the evidence is catching up and it's showing there are some drawbacks."

Related: Yes, Your Desk Job Is Killing Your, New Study Confirms

Past scientific research has shown that sitting too long at a desk is also detrimental to office workers' health. For example, a study published last year found that sitting for too many hours was linked to heart problems. Troponin is a protein produced by heart muscles when they are either are unhealthy, The Independent reported. The research, published in Circulation, found that people who sat for 10 hours or more tended to have above average levels of troponin in their blood, which is associated with poorer heart health.

However, the new Australian study on standing desks is very small, and involves less than two dozen volunteers. As such, it should not be the reason for anyone to throw away a stand up desk. Still, perhaps the answer to doesn't lay in fancy office equipment. As Taylor suggested to The Chicago Tribune, going for frequent walks could have equal benefits.