Sitting at your desk all day harms your health.
You may not be a couch potato at home, but what if you sit all day at work? Maybe you go from one meeting to another. Or you lose track of time whenever you’re in the zone.
If you have an office job where you sit hunched over a desk, clicking away at a computer more than you stand, you need to take steps – literally – to reduce your sedentary time.
Studies show that your health takes a major hit from sitting for long periods of time, as your risks rise for:
- Heart disease
Our bodies are built to move, so sitting is just not good for your health.
Can a Standing Desk Help You?
A standing desk, also called a stand-up desk, is basically a desk that allows you to stand up comfortably while working.
Many modern versions are adjustable, so that you can change the height of the desk and alternate between sitting and standing.
These are referred to as height-adjustable desks, or sit-stand desks.
Although research is still in early stages, it does appear that using a standing desk can have impressive benefits for health, and it may also increase productivity.
At the very least, using this type of desk can partly negate the harmful effects of sitting too much.
Benefits of a Standing Desk
Lowers Your Risk of Weight Gain
While exercise is the most effective way to burn calories quickly, simply choosing to stand instead of sitting can also be beneficial.
In fact, when compared to an afternoon of sedentary work, an equal amount of time spent standing has been shown to burn over 170 additional calories.
That’s almost 1000 extra calories burned each week from simply standing at your desk each afternoon!
Lowers After-Lunch Blood Sugar
Generally speaking, the more your blood sugar levels increase after meals, the worse it is for your health.
This is especially true for those with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.
In a small study of 10 office workers, standing for 180 minutes after lunch reduced the blood sugar spike by 43% compared to sitting for the same amount of time.
Both groups took the same amount of steps, indicating that the smaller spike was due to standing rather than additional physical movements around the office.
Another study involving 23 office workers found that alternating between standing and sitting every 30 minutes throughout the workday reduced blood sugar spikes by 11.1% on average.
The harmful effects of sitting after meals could help explain why excessive sedentary time is linked to a whopping 112% greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
Lowers Your Heart Disease Risk
A study found that bus conductors who stood all day had half the risk of heart disease-related deaths as their colleagues in the driver’s seats.
Since then, scientists have developed a much greater understanding of the effects of sitting on heart health, with prolonged sedentary time thought to increase the risk of heart disease by up to 147% (R, R).
It is so harmful that even an hour of intense exercise may not make up for the negative effects of an entire day spent sitting.
There is no doubt that spending more time on your feet is beneficial for heart health.
A Standing Desk Can Reduce Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common complaints of office workers who sit all day.
To determine if standing desks could improve this, several studies have been done on employees with long-term back pain.
Another study published by the CDC found that use of a sit-stand desk reduced upper back and neck pain by 54% after just 4 weeks.
Additionally, removal of the sit-stand desks reversed some of those improvements within a 2-week period.
It Can Improve Your Mood and Energy
Standing desks appear to have a positive influence on overall well-being.
In one 7-week study, participants using standing desks reported less stress and fatigue than those who remained seated the entire work day.
Additionally, 87% of those using standing desks reported increased vigor and energy throughout the day.
Upon returning to their old desks, overall moods reverted to their original levels.
It May Improve Your Productivity
A common concern about standing desks is that they hinder daily tasks, such as typing.
While standing each afternoon may take some getting used to, standing desks appear to have no significant impact on typical work tasks.
In a study of 60 young office employees, using a standing desk for 4 hours each day had no impact on characters typed per minute or typing errors.
Considering that standing improves mood and energy as well, using a standing desk is more likely to boost productivity rather than hinder it.
Standing More May Help You Live Longer
Studies have found a strong link between increased sitting time and early death.
This is not surprising given the strong association between sedentary time, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
In fact, a review of 18 studies found those who sit the most are at a 49% greater risk of dying early than those who sit the least.
Another study estimated that reducing sitting time to 3 hours per day would raise the average American’s life expectancy by 2 years.
While these observational studies do not prove cause and effect, the weight of evidence indicates standing more often could help lengthen our lifespan.
Best Standing Desks
Best Value Standing Desk
A desk that reviewers absolutely love is the Varidesk ProDesk Electric.
This stable desk is easy to put together, holds up to 250 lbs, has 3 memory settings for height, ships for free in the lower 48 states, is GreenGuard Gold certified, has a powerful and quiet motor.
One of my favorite features is the thick tabletop with some beautiful finishes, including reclaimed wood, butcher block wood, dark wood, as well as black and white.
Best Budget Standing Desk
For many people, spending $500 or $1000 on a desk may not be realistic. The Devaise crank-operated standing desk is an excellent alternative.
The Devaise is for the minimalist that doesn’t need electric operation or any extra frills in their standing desk. The main benefit of a standing desk is being more active and you’re getting every bit of that benefit with the Devaise Standing Desk.
Sometimes simple is better and in this case also much less expensive. Simple products are also less likely to fail and break and the lack of electronics provides confidence that this desk will last. In terms of price it really is hard to beat.
This is one of the lowest budget standing desks you can buy.
Best Budget Runner Up
Reviewers like the Stand Up Desk Store’s Crank Computer Desk because there’s a shelf to hold your monitor and the tabletop is slightly lower for your keyboard. Ergonomically, it’s better for your back and neck to split your monitor and keyboard, getting your monitor at eye level and keyboard closer to your hips.
There are several tabletops to choose from: bamboo, black oak, gloss black, teak, gloss white, and natural walnut.
Best Design Standing Desk
The Herman Miller Renew is an extremely high quality and design focused desk by the well-known furniture maker.
The Renew is an expensive desk but it still provides good value. Very few desks can offer this level of design, quality, durability, and ergonomics. This desk is for those who want the best and can afford it.
Herman Miller has made a name for its design, quality, durability, and ergonomics. Catering to the demands of many business offices, their products are extremely well made and tough. The Renew fits right into this description as it’s often touted as one of the best standing desks on the market; it has everything that you’re looking for in a good standing desk.
The renew also offers a lot of customization options.
Best Standing Desk Converter
For those wishing to convert their favorite desk or work space for standing should seriously consider the Flexispot M2B.
I think the Flexispot really has the best design and features for the price.
Unlike traditional standing desk options, there is almost no assembly required. This option gets you standing fast and simply. The truly vertical operation is also great.
When you lift most converters up, they come up and forward, which takes up more space, whereas the Flexispot raises straight up.
The desk also raises via one handle on the side as opposed to two, which makes it easier to operate.
Getting Started with Standing
Getting into a routine while standing while at work definitely takes time.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Change positions every 20 minutes. The goal isn’t necessarily to stand all day- it’s to keep moving. You can keep your chair nearby, set a timer if you need to, and every 20 minutes make a change. If you were sitting, stand, if you were standing, go get water… you can stretch, do squats, calf raises, just keep moving!
Wear the right shoes. If you’re wearing really constrictive shoes (like high heels), standing for long periods is going to be uncomfortable and may be hurting you. Bring comfortable shoes to work, or just socks, and if you have fallen arches, wear orthotics.
Get a standing desk mat. They’re not necessary, but many people find that they get less tired.
Converters vs. Standing Desks
If you’re not sure whether to buy a full standing desk or a standing desk converter, here are the main benefits of each:
Standing Desk Converter Advantages
- Cheaper: most standing desk converters are well under $500.
- No assembly required: most of the standing desk converters require zero assembly, the others take no more than 5 minutes.
It should be noted, though, that many standing desk companies are now making assembly easier. So if you’re intimidated by complicated assembly, know that most popular standing desks are relatively simple to put together.
Standing Desk Advantages
- More tabletop space: standing desks usually give you double to triple the amount of tabletop space compared to a converter. If you want to clear up even more tabletop space, look into monitor arms.
- Electric controls and keypad: now there are a few electric converters, but they’re more rare. When you have to manually adjust a converter, you may tend to not switch positions as much, which means most people might just revert to sitting.
- More customizations available: there are a lot more options when it comes to tabletop color and material, size of the tabletop, frame color, wire management, and accessories. Normally with a converter you’ll have the option of black, occasionally white or some variation of white, and in rare cases gray.
- Aesthetics: this is subjective but many people find that standing desks are better looking, mainly because there are more color and tabletop options.
- Lift capacity: most converters will lift no more that 50 lbs, whereas standing desks will often lift 3 times that, and often more. This isn’t usually an issue for most people unless you have a lot of things on your desktop, such as books, a bag, multiple monitors, etc.
Bottom Line: If you’re working with a limited budget or have a desk that you like, a standing desk converter is a good option. But if you can afford a standing desk, especially an electric sit to stand desk, you’ll likely find the increased work productivity and the health benefits are worth the difference in price.
Your Options and Budget
Options: From Cheapest to Most Expensive
Laptop stands can be used to hold your laptop if you’re sitting on a couch or bed, though that involves looking down at your screen, which puts pressure on your neck and back.
Laptop stands can also be used to get your screen a little higher, so you’re not looking down as much. The problems are that you’re still looking down, and that now you have to raise your arms up high to type.
To avoid creating tension in your neck, back, and wrists, you need to separate your screen from your keyboard. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to attach a keyboard to your laptop via usb.
When you’re sitting you can leave your laptop on the table and use the keyboard to type; when you stand you just lift the laptop on top on top of the laptop stand and use the keyboard in the same place as when you we’re sitting.
Standing Workstations and Mobile Carts
These workstations and carts don’t adjust to a sitting position and are often used by medical professionals that type standing up (and often need to move their workstation around).
Ergonomic experts don’t recommend standing all day, so I wouldn’t recommend these mobile workstations for that purpose. However, if you’ll be moving around and don’t mind not having the option to sit, these units are a good, cheap option.
The Mount-It! Mobile Stand Up Desk is a height-adjustable, rolling computer workstation, and a good example. It has four platforms and provides plenty of storage for your computer and work supplies, and the height of top two shelves are optimized for ergonomic laptop/keyboard and monitor placement.
The Mount-It! can easily be moved to different locations and locked in place, and has a weight capacity of 132 lbs.
Standing Desk Converters
These are units you place on top of your existing desk and have been made popular in large part due to Varidesk. I believe they were the first, and have done a lot of advertising.
The nice thing about converters is that they usually require little to no assembly; you just take it out of the box and put them where you want it on your desk.
Varidesk now has a lot of competition that have improved on their design. Though most converters are manually operated, where you squeeze one or two levers on the sides of the top to raise it and lower it, there are now electric converters.
Standing desk converters are usually cheaper than full standing desks so they’ll save you some money. The tabletops aren’t as large, so you might find it hard to have enough space to take notes, but they’re a great way to get you standing.
There are quite a few choices for converters available now.
As mentioned above, I think the FlexiSpot M2B is a great choice for a converter.
Crank Adjustable Standing Desks
Crank adjustable standing desks aren’t as common as converters or electric standing desks. They’re usually around the same price as converters, but are very similar to electric standing desks.
If you’re in a very quiet office and you don’t want the slight noise of raising and lowering your desk, a crank desk may work for you.
You’ll save money because you’re not paying for a motor and keypad to control the height of your desk, but you may be sacrificing standing as much as you should (because it may not feel as convenient to adjust the desk).
Electric Standing Desks
Of all of the different types of adjustable height desks, electric standing desks are the most expensive, though there are a wide range of prices.
Electric height-adjustable desks have a control pad that raises and lowers the desk, and usually has memory presets so you can save your favorite standing and sitting heights.
Electric sit to stand desks (as well as crank desks) can hold the most amount of weight. This isn’t an issue for most people, but if you have multiple monitors, books, your purse or bag, it an all add up quickly.
If you’re serious about getting the benefits of standing and not being sedentary while you work, this is probably the best way to go. But if you don’t want to replace your old desk, you can get a similar effect from a good quality a standing desk converter.