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Do all GPs need standing desks?

Letter from Dr Joanna Byers, GP trainee, West Suffolk

We hold forth and righteous to our patients on the benefits of moving more, being active, on small tricks and gains to overcome the latest surge on our society and yet another threat to their cholesterol level. Living a sedentary lifestyle is purported to unleash a cascade of negative effects on our metabolic rates, including an increased risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. And yet, the average GP doing two sessions per day spends a minimum of eight hours sat behind the computer. Even if we are lucky enough to have the luxury of time in order to stand and fetch our next patient from the waiting room, this is a significant time commitment to the sitting position.

But what are the alternatives? The standing desk, allowing users to stand comfortably to work, is recently entering the public eye, with reported benefits of decreased back pain, increased calorie burn and even improved mood and productivity. With a model from IKEA costing less than £200, should we be investing in our own health and bringing these into practices? What would be the impact of standing on the historical doctor-patient interaction? Would engaging with patients from a loftier height do anything to improve compliance or white-coat syndrome? What would happen to challenging communications if we were no longer at eye level? And, ultimately, for the last patient of the day, at the end of a long and difficult session, would we be fresher, stand taller, and be more ready to engage with his or her needs?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

If you would like to write to Pulse, please email

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Readers' comments (10)

  • Why not on an exercise bike? Please!!

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  • I prefer my consultations to take place on horseback.

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  • Idea worthy a try.

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  • Curb Your Enthusiasm

    I find my work-load induced tachycardia a great way to burn calories

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  • Meetings are faster and more decisive when standing, so it might cut appointment length?

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  • I have had a varidesk which sits on top of my usual desk for the last 2 years. As someone who had a her first hip replacement at the tender age of 42 years sitting down for hours on end plays havoc with my hip flexors. Researching ways to keep the knife away from my other hip, I came across the standing desk. Research suggested that the standing desk made you more productive and reduced the risk of diabetes. I don't consult standing up, but when energy and concentration is flagging I can flick the handles and the desk goes up. I wouldn't want to be without it, but make you own minds up. So far I've postponed my other planned hip surgery but I would blame Pilates and the cross trainer for that too.

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  • My intercom system broke and I haven't replaced it. I call each patient, so I have to get up , open the door and call the patient. It is only a few steps, but it helps.

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  • I use a Varidesk all the time. Only A$168 and especially useful with back pain patients who can't sit. most of my non contact work study emails etc all done standing. Try it!

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  • Why not consult whilst doing aerobic exercises to 1980s music with mandatory pink head band and leg warmers :)

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  • Given the issues around funding, I don't fee;l GP's need any more expense piled on their ever growing bills to pay.

    I have yet to find a GP that sits throughout his time in the surgery, a chance would be a fine thing?

    I thought GP's were so tired they hadn't got the energy to walk anywhere.

    My GP's gets up and calls all his patients by name, opens the door for them, coming and going, pops to the office, pops to see the practice manager, nips to the loo, I doubt very much that he gets the time to sit fro four hours.
    There are of course many GP's that work so few hours per week that they are not there long enough to warm the office chair!

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