Read This Before Switching To A Standing Desk
If you have to work from a desk, then you spend quite a lot of time there. You probably use it almost as much as your bed.
Don’t get to depressed. There are some ways to make those hours more productive and pain free.
The big hype these days is standing at work. Here are just a few of the positive things that can be associated with standing.
- Reduced back, leg and neck pain.
- Decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, and some cancers
- Longer life expectancy
- Increased levels of energy, focus and mood
We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking, but standing all day in one spot isn’t much better. Standing is the new sitting!
Lets look at some of the negatives of standing all day.
- Swollen ankles
- Pain in legs, knees and lower back
- Increased risk of carotid arteries, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis and other cardiovascular problems
We already did the standing all day thing. Many years ago, much of the city population worked in factories where they specialized in just one task. That usually meant standing in one spot all day long. Occupational injuries rose and we invented seating and then ergonomic seating.
The key to staying healthy and avoiding injuries while working from any desk is to change positions and allow for frequent movement during the day.
It’s important to remember that movement must happen frequently throughout the entire day. Going to the gym for 2 hours will actually not make up for sitting or standing in one place for 8 hours. So all you gym goers and those who sweated out a 5 mile run before work aren’t off the hook.
Research shows that its best to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Most people recommend sitting half the time and standing half the time. You should increase or decrease the amount of time spent standing to whatever is comfortable to you.
Ultimately it’s best to get up and move every hour. If you simply move from sitting for 4 hours to standing in one place for 4 hours, it’s not going make a big difference.
Try It Before You Decide
Standing at your desk isn’t right for everybody. My suggestion is to try standing a few hours during the day for a week before you make the investment. That way you will know how your body is going to react to standing more throughout the day.
If you work from home, just try working from your kitchen counter.
You may have to get a little more creative if you work in an office, but its still possible. Check out the IKEA hack from Colin Nederkoorn.
You could also just pile up some books or put a milk crate on top of your desk.
Head to your local coffee shop for a work session. Most coffee shops I visit have at least one table that’s standing height. Move the chair or stool out of the way and work standing up.
Types of Desks
When it comes to choosing a desk, there are a few types to look at.
These desks allow you to use them as normal sitting desks and also to raise them up to standing height. With these you get the best of both worlds.
The electric type allows you to raise and lower it with the push of a button. This is much easier than the manually controlled ones, which can be awkward and become unbalanced when moving. They are more expensive though.
The StandDesk is one of my favorite. Not only are the elegant looking, they are affordable. Many companies make height adjustable desks that are just too expensive for the average person to afford. StandDesk has really come through with laminate or bamboo tops, minimalist design and even better – no added formaldehyde.
The laminate tops are Greenguard indoor air quality-certified for low chemical emissions so you can be assured that they pass the gold standard industry test for VOC emissions. The deluxe model even has 4 memory presets so you can just press a button to have it raise or lower to your preset heights.
Herman Miller also makes some really great adjustable height desks of both the sit-stand and standing height variety. These are a bit more spendy than the StandDesk but also come with 12 year warranties and the backing of a company that’s an iconic designer of modern furniture. Our own Thaddeus Owen has a Herman Miller Everywhere Table that adjusts using a crank handle, as he doesn’t want any additional electronics in his workspace beyond the necessary.
If cost is an issue, this may be a much cheaper alternative. You can buy these for much cheaper than adjustable ones or even can even build your own like I did.
This is the standing desk I built in my home office. Its still a work in progress, but as you can see, can be pretty simple.
My wife wasn’t to happy but I stole one of the stools from the kitchen. Its not quite tall enough, so I plan on buying one that fits better.
You may have seen one of these being pushed around a doctors office or hospital. This is what I bought when I first decided to get off my butt and stand more.
They can be great if you use a laptop, but are almost useless if you use a desktop. Mine was a little wobbly before I added a few books and magazines to the shelf at the bottom to weigh it down.
Lets face it, not everyone can invest in a new desk.
Tips For Making The Swtich
After you test it out and decide on a desk, its time to actually make the switch. Moderation is the key here. To many people buy a standing desk and assume they will be able to stand the whole day. This usually is a bad idea and can give you a negative attitude towards standing.
If you follow these guidelines, it will make the switch much easier and painless.
One of the most important tips for switching to a standing desk is to make sure to get the ergonomics right. Standing at your desk is great for your health, but standing the wrong way can cause some problems.
This graphic from WIRED show the proper way to use your standing desk. You want your monitor to be level with your eyes and your keyboard and mouse to be level with your elbows. Your forearms should be parallel to the floor.
If you’re going to spend the money, ensure you purchase a desk that can adjust to your perfect height.
What if you have a laptop?
Laptops have never been good where ergonomics were concerned. The monitor being connected to the keyboard means that you have to look down all the time which isn’t good for your neck.
One way to solve that is to place your laptop on some type of stand and use a separate keyboard and mouse.
Thaddeus uses a docking station for his laptop and attaches it to a monitor arm and then uses a keyboard tray attached to the bottom of his desk. He also uses a separate monitor on a monitor arm. Both arms can be adjust to set up the most ergonomic working space.
You can also buy laptop stands that allow your laptop to tilt at appropriate angles for more ergonomic typing.
When switching to my standing desk, I was quite tempted to steal the mat from in front of the kitchen sink. Knowing that my wife would be a little angry about that, I decided to buy my own.
Having one of these is a must if you must stand on a hard floor. Standing on solid floors or even thin office carpet can be painful on your feet. You can find them pretty cheap and they are worth every penny.
Listen To Your Body
Its pretty simple really.
Your body will let you know when you need to sit down. Listen to it. If you are sitting down and start to get stiff or fidgety, stand up.
Try to make a point of getting up every single hour for 5-10 minutes of movement. Whether that’s a walk around the office, or a walk to the home gym to do some deadlifts and yoga, make sure you move. It may seem silly to get up every hour, but that’s really the minimum you should shoot for.
According to Dr. Levine of the Mayo Clinic in his book Stand Up, getting 2.5 hours of non exercise movement every single day is what we should all strive for to maximize health and reduce disease.
You can add props to your workspace too. Half foam roller to stand on and rock your feet on. Exercise right at your workstation. You could even keep a resistance band at work and use it for a few minutes in front of your desk. Check out our article about resistance bands.
We’re starting our investigation into the use of treadmill desks. Thaddeus has purchased a non motorized treadmill to try out and many others have raved about this way of moving during the workday. We’ll let you know how it goes.
Try doing some simple stretches from time to time. You can even try doing these yoga poses from your desk. Warning- Just don’t do the tree pose like the picture shows. You foot should never be against your knee. It should either be above or below it.
Future posts will break all these areas out into very clear ways to move, stretch and get up at work to ensure you get the movement your body and mind need for optimal health and performance.
Standing up at work is one of the easiest and simplest ways to get started. Talk to your boss and get a standing desk ordered or use one of the above tips to get out of your chair and on your feet!