Standing Desk vs. Ergonomic Chair: Which Is Better?
Anyone who spends a lot of time typing understands the physical strain it involves. We imagine that desk work or remote work is easy on our bodies, but the opposite is often true.
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Using a computer requires that you repeat fine motions over and over, leading to issues like carpal tunnel syndrome. The impact extends to the rest of your body as well. Back pain, shoulder pain, weight gain, and other health problems are inevitable when you spend 8 hours a day typing away in a chair with improper posture.
Sedentary workplaces aren’t great for your well-being, but you have to make a living, right? What can you do to avoid chronic pain while keeping your job?
Height adjustable standing desks and ergonomic chairs are possible solutions. These are two ways to optimize your workday for better physical and mental health. What are the differences between the standing desk vs ergonomic chair, though?
We’re going to take a look at these two options today, giving you some insight into the benefits they provide and whether one of them might be a good fit for you.
What Is a Standing Desk?
A standing desk, also called a sit-stand desk, is essentially a raised desk. It’s a working platform that doesn’t require a chair because its surface is functional while the user stands.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Standing desks are simple, but they’re optimized for your health. They’re adjustable and can accommodate people of any size. There are also a number of options when it comes to design, additional platforms, and aesthetics. For example; you can get a manual standing desk or electric standing desks.
Take our electric standing desk, the Desky Dual Melamine Sit Stand Desk, for example. The Desky Dual's desk tops come in a variety of shapes such as the Ergo Edge in order to accommodate posture health. It’s also possible to adjust the desk from the sitting to the standing position with the touch of a button. So, if you’re getting a little tired from standing for a few hours, you can instantly sit down and give your legs a rest.
This is the case with most standing desks. You don’t have to stand, but it’s always an option and standing for periods of time throughout the day is the healthiest option as we’ll discuss in another section. Height-adjustable desks are great for those who sit and stand throughout their work day - we share more benefits of standing vs. sitting in our post on why standing desks are better than sitting all day.
Standing Desk Converters
You can also find standing desk converters that turn your desk into a standing desk. This is a great option when your office has established furniture and it would be impractical to add a new good quality standing desk. Converters are also exceptional for those who work remotely and engage with a number of different workspaces.
Someone who works primarily at coffee shops, for example, has little-to-no control over their workspace. They’re sitting most of the time, often at cramped tables that jam your wrists inward and provide no ergonomic relief.
Bring a standing table converter along and you have the option to sit or stand wherever you are. So, a standing desk might be an established piece of furniture or it could be an addition that allows you to manipulate existing workspaces.
What is an Ergonomic Chair?
An ergonomic chair is one that’s created with your health in mind. In comparison with the standard office chair, the ergonomic chair provides support to your back and spine, holds your wrists in the proper position, and provides a general improvement in wellness.
Traditional office chairs (and office furniture in general) weren’t created with ergonomics in mind. Old office furniture might have even been created before computers were ubiquitous in the workplace.
You sit with feet planted, elbows at your side, wrists extended, and your head pointed at a screen. Your neck adjusts to the level of the screen in relation to your line of sight. When your head points up or down at the screen, your neck arches and holds the weight of your head.
Good posture requires that your spine is in alignment and your head is facing straightforward. When you’re arching your neck for prolonged periods, you start to feel the effects in the rest of your upper body. Back pain, particularly shoulder pain, starts to emerge after a day or two.
To make things worse, you’re sitting in a chair without lumbar support or back support in general. Your shoulders hunch forward, your head angles downward, and your wrists struggle to keep up. All of these instances of bad posture feed into one another, creating a tight back.
Muscular issues are the first effect of poor posture when you’re sitting for upwards of six hours at a time. Risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic issues, decreased productivity, and heart disease all join in the long list of risks that come from sitting for forty hours every week.
You can think of extended sitting as the “new smoking.”
Ergonomic chairs provide a significant amount of release to your body, supporting you so you don’t have to suffer the physical pain of bad posture in the office.
What Are the Pros of Standing Desks?
There are myriad benefits to using a standing desk while you work.
To start with, standing desks improve the posture issues we described above. You can manipulate the standing desk so that the computer screen sits at eye level. This way, you don’t strain your neck and hunch forward to account for the weight of your head. Furthermore, we tend to stand with better posture than we sit with, especially after a while.
Sitting requires us to adjust our lower back and hips in the right position so the rest of the spine can sit in alignment. If the chair doesn’t have proper lumbar support, it's unlikely that you’ll sit in a healthy way.
Beyond spine health, though, there’s a lot of evidence to support standing instead of sitting. For one, standing burns calories and sitting doesn’t. Studies suggest that standing through your workday can actually burn more than 170 calories that you’d keep if you were sitting.
Sitting directly after you eat contributes to a higher blood sugar spike than you would otherwise experience. You generally want to keep blood sugar spikes low after meals, and standing is a great way to curb those levels. Individuals who are at high risk for diabetes or already have diabetes might benefit a lot from standing for a half-hour or so after their lunch break.
Mood and Productivity
You can also expect a boost in your mood when you switch to a standing desk. Another study showed that individuals who stood at their desks had better moods and outlooks than their peers who remained seated.
Energy levels drop when you’re sitting in the same position for long periods of time, and health experts predict health benefits for their patients who have more energy and keep a positive outlook.
In the case of work, that means you’ll have a happier mentality throughout the day. That contributes to higher productivity.
There are plenty of reasons to explore standing desk options and a lot of good reasons to ditch your old office chair. Sitting is an effective way to work, though, and it’s unreasonable to expect that everyone can stand through their workday.
If you reduce your time standing and replace your old desk chair with an ergonomic chair, though, you’ll make a massive improvement.
What Are the Pros of Ergonomic Chairs?
Ergonomic chairs boast a lot of the same benefits that standing desks do. The first and most important benefit is the relief that these chairs provide to your spine and back.
You swap the hunched, curled, and painful way of sitting for a more relaxed and supportive one. It’s really important to take a step back and think about the importance of your spine. Your spine is literally your support beam. It impacts everything you do.
If you have a serious issue with the spine, you risk damaging your nerves, mobility, and freedom to participate in everything that you enjoy. Think of that importance in relation to the way that we sit at work.
If you’re hunched and straining your upper back, you’re putting yourself at serious risk for long-term health issues. Sure, a day or two of strained seating is fine, but magnify that eight-hour session over the course of the whole year. That’s a couple of thousand hours spent in a strained position.
If you do your job for, say, ten years, that’s almost a third of your life spent warping your muscles into unhealthy positions. If you replace those 20,000-odd hours with a healthy posture, your risk of serious health issues decreases across the board. The average office worker spends about 1,800 hours at work each year - think about what that means for the pressure on your spine.
It’s also worth remembering that tired muscles aren’t productive muscles. Have you ever taken an extra break or two throughout the day to relax your wrist muscles? Worried that carpal tunnel syndrome is coming your way in the next few years?
Those breaks and anxieties all impact the quality of the work you do. You don’t do as much work, you’re distracted by the bodily pain you’re in. An ergonomic chair can provide relief for these issues.
What Are the Biggest Difference Between Standing Desks and Ergonomic Chairs?
The biggest difference between a standing desk and an ergonomic chair is the fact that standing tends to be better for your health than sitting. So, spending all of your time at a standing desk might be a better option if your health allows you to.
That said, there are always going to be times when you’re required or expected to sit at a desk. If you’re in the workplace, it’s hard to get around that fact. Whether you need to go to regular meetings or your workplace requires uniformity and doesn’t allow standing, you might need to utilize an ergonomic chair.
In most scenarios, though, people enjoy a combination of sitting and standing while they work. It gets tiring to be on your feet for eight hours a day, week after week. So, our recommendation is to invest in a comfortable ergonomic chair with adjustable lumbar support as well as a standing desk.
The benefits that individuals experience from this shift will depend on a few things. First, consider how long you’ve been sitting in a desk chair with improper posture. Next, think about how long you’ve experienced the pain in your back and neck.
Depending on how serious the pain is, you might need to couple ergonomic solutions with professional help. If you’ve only been seated eight hours per day for a couple of years, you might notice that your pains go away quickly when you use a standing desk.
In any case, though, you’ll experience reduced risk for cardiovascular issues, an improved mood, and a general uptick in productivity when you make the switch from a standard office chair to a stand-up desk.
The same is true for ergonomic chairs. The relief that an ergonomic chair provides can lift the fog of the workday make you realize just how sore and tight your back was before.
Interested In More Ergonomic Solutions?
Hopefully, our look at the differences between the standing desk vs ergonomic chair was helpful to you. Making small changes like these can have powerful impacts on our health, well-being, and increase productivity.
We’re here to help with more ideas. See our article on the best desk setup for productivity for further insight into methods for improving your health and work efficiency.