You’ve heard about the risks of sitting all day long. If not here, then here, here, here, and here. The studies are everywhere, and the verdict is in: We should not spend all day sitting, even if we make time to exercise. It’s not how our bodies are supposed to operate.
So, you want to take the plunge for a standing desk? Here’s our advice on how to go about doing that.
Ease into it, and start cheap
Don’t rush out to buy a top-of-the-line, thousand-dollar desk that moves up and down with the push of a button. Save that for later, once you’re really into this. For now, start small. Any little bit of standing that you do will be an improvement over sitting all day long.
Here are a few small things that you can do without even creating a standing desk. They might be seem silly, but they’re certainly better than sitting for eight hours straight.
- Commit to doing a certain work task while standing, every time you do it. For example, take all of your calls while standing. Or, if you read at work, stand while reading reports or articles. Neither of these require a standing desk.
- Take standing breaks during meetings. I’ve found that this actually helps me stay focused, too.
- Drink more water. This is not only healthy, but also a way to keep you moving–by forcing you to get up to refill your glass, and go to the bathroom. All that walking time is good time.
Enough foreplay, I want to stand
Cheesy tips aside, this is about actually standing while you’re at your computer, not just peeing more during the day.
Again, start small. The best first steps are to set realistic goals and keep your desk cheap. If you try to stand too much right off the bat, you’re probably not going to like it, and you might not stick with it. You should also figure out your own patterns before you rush into spending more money than you need to.
A good first goal is to stand for one hour a day while at work. And do it in small shifts–20 minutes here, 20 minutes there. Do that for the first week. Then increase it to two hours. Gradually work your way up until you find a standing amount that feels right for you. Even the most ambitious standers don’t stand for the full day, usually maxing out at about 80 percent of the workday.
Since you’ll start by moving up and down a lot, you’ll eventually want a desk that adjusts easily. While it might be tempting to go for the $22 IKEA Hack, that, along with many other cheap standing desks, is a fixed-height desk. These can work as an introduction to standing–my sister, the person who got me into standing, stacked boxes on her desk for eight months. But once you’re serious, you need something that can easily adjust. It’s a huge deterrent to standing if it takes you 15 minutes to set up your desk, and then another 15 to take it apart each day. That is why we recommend the Ergo Depot Jarvis as the best adjustable standing desk, and the Kangaroo Pro Junior as the best way to convert your current desk to a standing desk. Both are “affordable” (compared with competitors), reliable, extremely functional, and good looking. You can read our full review of standing desks for a better understanding of the options that are out there, and why we like the Jarvis and the Kangaroo Pro Junior.
It’s important to put your keyboard and monitor at the appropriate heights. If you don’t, you might cramp your shoulders, back, or neck by craning. To determine your ideal height for your monitor and keyboard, stand up straight and bend your elbows so that your forearms are parallel to the ground. Wherever your hands are, that’s the ideal height for your keyboard. And whatever is at eye level, that is your ideal monitor level. Create your desk around those dimensions.
You will quickly realize that laptops are not conducive to standing, because the keyboard and monitor are at almost the exact same level. It kind of makes sense–the name is “lap”top after all, which implies sitting. The easy fix for this is to purchase a separate keyboard, which isn’t very expensive at all, but will make your desk much more ergonomic by separating the keyboard from the monitor. Or, you could purchase a separate monitor, such as our favorite, the Dell UltraSharp U2412M.
Mastering the fine details
Once you’re standing an hour or two a day, you’ll notice that there are a few nuanced touches that can make a huge difference.
Standing in place all day is not that good for you either. With all of these studies showing how bad it is to stand, some doctors have looked at the harm of too much standing, and have concluded that static standing, without any weight shift or movement, can lead to increased varicose veins, which are pretty gross.
To combat this, set up your desk near something that you can lean on from time to time, which will help you shift your weight around. And also, try to get into the habit of swaying or rocking–nothing drastic here, but enough to get your weight moving around a little bit.
Get comfy shoes or, even better, go barefoot. If it’s not going to freak anyone out, go ahead and take off your shoes. But if you need footwear, keep a comfy pair of flats at the office that you can change into for standing.
Get a standing mat. They are pretty cheap and can make a huge difference in your comfort throughout the day, especially when you start standing for extended stretches of time. We have a full guide to standing mats, where we explain in depth the benefits of a mat, and why comfy shoes alone aren’t enough. Our favorite is the WellnessMats Original.
Put music on. It’ll get you dancing, which is good! You’ll shift your weight more and avoid that problem of standing in the exact same place all day.
Take breaks. This isn’t a race. This is a behavior that ultimately you are hoping to adapt to for the long haul, preferably the remainder of your working life. Give yourself a break from time to time. Standing all day is harder than you’d think. Make it easy on yourself to enjoy standing.
For the advanced stander, try a treadmill desk. That’s guaranteed to keep you moving. AJ Jacobs wrote an entire book at a treadmill desk, and he speculates that he logged about 1,200 miles in the process. Or, you can work on any variety of balancing boards. I work at my desk while balancing on an Indo Board. I’m often on there for three to five hours a day. It feels amazing.
Otherwise, it’s just standing. Hard to overthink it.
Check out our guide with our recommendations for the best standing desk. And, hey, try standing up while you’re reading it.