According to recent studies, employees spend approximately 62% of their workday sitting, and the majority of university students spend upward of 75% of their class time sitting. This is cause for concern because various detrimental health consequences are associated with prolonged sitting, including an increased risk of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and premature death, in addition to mental health issues including depression and anxiety.
One option, that is becoming increasingly popular, to reduce the amount of time in a seated position is to change your workstation to a standing desk. You can purchase a standing desk converter that allows you to keep your original desk, or if you want to remove your original desk, you can purchase a height adjustable standing desk. Both of these standing desk options give you the ability to work in either a sitting or standing position.
Benefits of Using a Standing Desk
While research has shown that using a standing desk burns slightly more calories than sitting, it may not help with weight loss, or prevent weight gain. However, there are a variety of other health benefits to using a standing desk, including:
Blood sugar levels return to normal faster after eating.
Reduces the risk of shoulder and back pain.
May help to reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and premature death (these benefits are assumed; more research is needed in this area).
How to Stand at a Standing Desk
If you’re new to the world of standing desks, there are a few guidelines you should follow to maximize the benefit of these workstations. Just like any type of new activity, side effects, including aching feet and legs, as well as back and shoulder pain, can occur if you go from sitting all day to standing all day, or if your desk isn’t positioned properly.
Let’s take a look at guidelines for how to stand at a standing desk:
Maintaining Proper Posture
Your head, neck and torso should be aligned vertically, with your shoulders relaxed. Your knees should be slightly bent with your feet positioned directly under your shoulders, and your weight should occasionally be shifted from one foot to the other. A footrest may be useful for shifting your weight. In some cases, use of an anti-fatigue mat may allow you to stand for extended periods of time.
Another alternative to sitting or standing at your desk is to kneel, or half kneel. Kneeling is a very natural position for your body and encourages proper spinal alignment. There are various kneeling positions that you can use - one leg forward and one leg down on a balance cushion such as a Theraband balance board, both knees positioned on a kneeling chair, or one leg on the floor and one knee kneeling on a chair. Kneeling places your spine and pelvis in a neutral position, and forces you into a more upright posture, which reduces slouching and stress on your spine.
It’s not unusual for your knees to get tired or achy after a lengthy time spent kneeling. To reduce the discomfort, change positions - switch the side that you’re kneeling on, stand or sit at your desk, or get up and go for a short walk.
Selecting an Appropriate Desk
Ensure that your desk is deep enough so that your computer monitor can sit directly in front of you.
Proper Positioning of Your Computer Monitor
Position your monitor about an arms length directly in front of you, with the top of the monitor at or below eye level (tilted up to 20 degrees) so that when you’re looking at the center of the screen your line of sight is perpendicular to the screen surface. When dual monitors are used simultaneously, they should be placed side by side with their edges touching. However, if you use one monitor the majority of the time (more than 80% of the time), that monitor should be placed directly in front of you with the other monitor positioned to the side.
* If you wear bifocals, you should lower your monitor 1 to 2 inches (two to three fingerbreadths) for more comfortable viewing.
Proper Positioning of Your Mouse and Keyboard
Position your mouse and keyboard on the same surface, and keep your elbows close to your body and bent between 90 and 120 degrees. Your wrists should be straight with your hands positioned slightly below your elbows.
To minimize mouse use consider using keyboard shortcuts and adjust the sensitivity of your mouse so that you can use light touch. Additionally, alternate the hand you use to operate the mouse by positioning it on the other side of your keyboard from time to time.
Proper Positioning of Extra Objects
Objects that are used frequently, such as telephones, binders, staplers, etc., should be placed within reach to avoid excessive stretching.
Wearing Appropriate Footwear
Wear supportive shoes with a low heel when standing; additionally, if you’re standing for prolonged periods of time, compression socks are recommended.
Recommended Standing Time
It is recommended that you initially build up to two hours of standing and movement throughout the workday, with a gradual increase to four hours throughout the workday. Keep in mind that whether you’re standing or sitting, you should take a break every 20 to 30 minutes to move around for 2 minutes.
Healthy habits to develop to increase movement in the workplace include walking to the water fountain or printer, using the stairs rather than the elevator, and parking farther from the main entrance.
Getting the Most out of Your Standing Desk
In order to get the most benefit from your standing desk, keep the following in mind:
Alternate between sitting, standing, and moving – this will help to avoid prolonged positions.
Be aware of your body signals – if you feel pain or discomfort, it’s time to switch positions.
If you’re pregnant or have pre-existing medical conditions, speak to your healthcare practitioner before using a standing desk.
Start standing at your desk for short periods of time, and gradually increase the amount of time you spend standing.
Position objects such as your chair, waste basket, etc. out of the way so that they don’t pose a tripping hazard when you’re standing.
If you’ve made the switch to a standing or sit-stand desk you’re on your way to a healthier lifestyle. Keep in mind that changing your workstation may result in unwanted side effects, especially if done incorrectly. Introducing standing gradually, and ensuring that your workstation is set up properly, will help you learn how to stand at a standing desk and experience the health benefits of this innovative workstation design.