The surging popularity of standing desks has led to some confusion about the best way to use them for optimum benefit. As is often the case in health-related matters, moderation is the key. The body of research in the field of inactivity physiology shows that a mix of sitting, standing, and movement is the healthiest daily routine.
Understandably, some people are so alarmed by the research regarding sitting disease and its many health hazards that they purchase a standing desk, and then immediately abandon their office chair altogether – going directly from 8 hours of sitting to 8 hours of standing. As you can imagine, this approach comes with its own set of problems. Starting out this way will likely lead to pain, fatigue, and a negative experience for the user. It’s best to start by taking short but frequent standing breaks spaced evenly throughout the day. For instance, start by taking a 5-minute standing break after every 20 minutes of sitting. Then, build your way up to longer standing sessions and adjust your sit/stand ratio to see what works for you. Everyone is different, and you’ll eventually find the formula that fits you best. It’s important to remember that standing all day is not the ultimate goal here.
The effects of sitting on your heart health, metabolic functions, back, hips, and brain are well documented. However, excessive standing comes with problems as well – it can produce back and foot pain, varicose veins, lower muscle activity in the neck and shoulders, pregnancy complications, and carotid atherosclerosis. Ultimately, the goal of active office tools like height-adjustable desks and anti-fatigue mats is not to encourage all-day standing, but to discourage any unmoving, static posture for too long. Modest, regular movement and activity is the natural state of our bodies. When standing, you’re more likely to shift your weight, move your feet, and engage in other subtle body movements that keep circulation going and muscles engaged. When it’s time for a sitting break, just make sure you maintain a healthy posture and don’t stay there for too long. Try to stand up or take a short walking break at least every 30 minutes.
It’s understandable that some people get the wrong idea about how to use their standing desk – many models on the market and popular DIY solutions are fixed-height with little or no adjustability. A heavy stack of books may allow you to work standing up, but may also be an inconvenient hurdle when you’re ready to sit down for a while. The best solution is a height-adjustable desktop standing desk that gives you control over your work environment and the flexibility to choose when to stand up or sit down throughout the day as often as you like.