Standing desks at work have an unfortunate side effect: The more you stand at work, the more likely you are to slouch in a chair as soon as you get home.
U.K. researchers reached this conclusion after asking a group of officer workers to switch to a standing work station and watching closely to see how their behavior changed.
The result is what the researchers, from Loughborough University, call the compensation effect. When switched away from normal sitting desks to workstations that could be quickly adjusted between sitting and standing positions, subjects were found to spend a little more time sitting in the evening–perhaps because the poor lambs were tired.
The study equipped 40 office workers with movement trackers on their legs, which they wore 24 hours per day. These were installed 14 days before they took delivery of the workstations, to get a baseline. Then the subjects continued wearing the trackers for three months while they used the standing desks.
The first surprise is how little difference the stations made at work. Subjects only spent 20% less time sitting, or around an hour and a half extra standing time. The other finding was that those who stood at work sat more in the evenings, although overall this increased sitting didn’t cancel out the increased standing–subjects sat for a total of 44 minutes less during the entire day, on average.
What does this mean? That just fitting a standing desk in the office isn’t good enough if you want to improve your posture or your health. You’d also need to work on healthier habits at home, too, or wherever you spend weekends and evenings.
“Our research sheds new light on how sedentary behavior and physical activity are compensated outside of working hours,“ writes one of the study’s authors, Stacy Clemes. “For those using sit-to-stand workstations, it is recommended that individuals consciously think about ways they can reduce their sitting time outside of work, so as to avoid undoing any beneficial effects of reduced sitting at work.”
So, instead of taking a booth next time you go out for after-work cocktails, you might consider standing at the bar instead. You know–for your health.