Choosing Your Perfect Standing Desk
A couple of years back, it was all the rage to track your steps in an attempt to reach 10,000 each day. Then the pandemic hit.
For many of us, step counts fell to an abysmal level. To be fair, some people used temporary business closures or disruptions in commuting routines to add a consistent exercise routine to their lives. Others, however, are finding that their lives have become only more sedentary.
Sitting is the New Smoking
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase: “Sitting is the new smoking”. We sit while we drive or ride public transportation, in movies or while watching tv, during meals, and for most of us, while we work. According to the Surgeon General’s report, more than 60 percent of Americans do not maintain the CDC's recommended level of activity. This same report states that 25 percent of Americans are considered not active at all.
A lack of physical activity is tied to numerous negative health outcomes, so much so we now bundle the related conditions into a condition called sitting disease. Sedentary individuals have higher levels of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, osteoporosis, and mood imbalance (like depression and anxiety).
Perhaps you know you should move more. But with constant demands depleting your energy, it’s hard to get started. Perhaps you, like so many, overcomplicate the issue and allow overwhelm to keep you from adding in more activity. But the point isn’t to transition from sitting all day to the opposite end of the spectrum. Standing all day has its own set of physical and mental downsides. The sweet spot lies in learning to balance the two.
Movement Decreases Pain
Increased back pain is a common complaint of those adopting an always-standing stance. Core exercises and standing mats are both potential solutions to this problem. If core exercises aren’t your thing, keep in mind that some studies show general exercise may be as beneficial as core exercises for back-pain sufferers.
The overarching point seems to be that movement positively impacts pain levels. Research on standing mats indicates the same result: The increased movement of active standing reduces pain while standing. As a bonus, some standing mats include raised “mountain” areas or tracks with massage balls to facilitate easy stretching and exercising of the feet and calves.
Taking into account that neither static standing nor static sitting is ideal, it’s best to move between the two. Given that we spend about one-third of our lives working and one-third sleeping, you either need to pack quite a bit of movement into the remaining third or to take steps to add movement into your workday.
A Standing Desk for Every Worker
The availability of products to help us move at work is growing, thanks to companies like Google and Apple popularizing the concept of the stand-up desk.
Recent research shows the ideal sit-stand ratio is “somewhere between 1:1 and 1:3”. The study recommends standing 30-45 minutes every hour during a traditional eight-hour workday. That’s a tall order for a worker with a traditional desk.
Today, workers can easily transition between standing and sitting with a full-size standing desk, a standing desk converter, or a height-adjustable desk (also called a sit-stand desk). To find the best standing desk and facilitate more movement throughout your day, consider your work location, preferences, and needs.
Full–Size Desk vs. Standing Desk Converter
Stand-up desks come as their own unit or as an add-on to pre-existing furniture. A full-size standing desk fully replaces your existing desk with a more functional option. If you don’t want to replace your current desk, consider a standing desk converter, also called a desk riser, as an add-on.
Electric vs. Manual
A full-size stand-up desk raises and lowers with either manual or electric operation. The best manual versions offer removable cranks for out-of-the-way storage between adjustments. Electric options go up and down with just the touch of a button.
Both manual and electric standing desks offer additional features such as: locking wheels for stable mobility, drawers (or a keyboard tray) for convenient storage and ergonomics, or built-in charging ports to keep your devices operating at full capacity.
Single vs. Dual Level
Consider both the layout of your workstation as well as your own personal comfort. Standing desks and desk converters come in single- and dual-level versions.
While a single level is certainly an upgrade from a traditional desk, a dual-level workstation takes functionality up another notch. Elevating your monitors onto a second level improves physical comfort while giving you more real estate on your main work surface. A dual-level desk allows your arms to remain at a 90-degree angle while typing and your neck to stay in a comfortable, neutral position while looking at a monitor that’s even with your sight line.
Stand Up, Sit Down
After a long drive or a long day at a desk, sometimes all we want to do is sit down. We hear about the negative long-term effects of a sedentary lifestyle, but those issues feel far off until we find ourselves in discomfort or pain. It's important to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day for a more active, ergonomic lifestyle.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but you have to choose that for yourself. If you choose to move more, the good news is you’ll start feeling better right away. Your future self will thank you.