Are Standing Desks Healthy?
-- This is a guest post by Liz Stark --
Are you sitting down right now? You might want to stand up for this – or hopefully want to stand up by the end of this article. Do you dread working, attending meetings, or even checking emails, knowing that you will be confined to a desk (or desk-like setting) for hours on end? Do you feel more tired after sitting for a long time, antsy, and even a little achy?
After years of back pain, feeling antsy, and simply uncomfortable at my desk, I became intrigued with the idea of having a standing desk. This is not to be confused with a treadmill desk (which, in my opinion, looks like a deadly accident waiting to happen); and I already knew a few people who owned standing desks and highly recommended them. However, I put off the idea, thinking I would just suffer and sit through any discomfort at my “regular” desk.
In November 2013, I received a big wakeup call that I needed to get a standing desk – and fast. After a fluke accident of simply getting out of bed too quickly and not stretching properly, I suffered from sharp, quick, and prolonged neck, back, and shoulder pain that lasted about two weeks. I could not turn my head left or right, could not sit down for longer than about 30 seconds without pain settling in; and sleeping was a nightmare. After just two days of my recovery process, I got a standing desk; and I know for a fact (and from my doctor’s and personal trainer’s opinions as well) that this standing desk not only helped me to heal properly and safely, but also helped me further improve my posture and actually get some work done!
After experiencing this consequence of moving too quickly and not stretching enough, I am now much more proactive in preventing what happened to my neck, back, and shoulders. I also must admit that I am incredibly relieved that I did not suffer any setbacks in my fitness and wellness goals, despite not being able to work out for two weeks. As a “worry wart,” when the pain first hit me, my initial thought was, “Oh my goodness! I’m going to be paralyzed! I can’t work out!” Shallow, I know – but as someone who finds solace in working out, this was huge deal to me.
Now that I have a standing desk as my everyday workstation, this has further improved my fitness, energy levels, and productivity. Really, I swear! Look – those treadmill desks that provide comic relief in online videos are giving standing desks (which, again, are totally different) a bad reputation and make them seem impractical. I included two photos of my standing desk with this article, so you can see an example of where I stand daily. My desk is not glamorous by any means – and I love it. It is on wheels, so I can move it to a different room or space if necessary; it has a shelf unit and ample desk space for my laptop and papers (which I set on either side of my laptop); and I also piled a few books under my laptop, simply because I like to have the computer propped up a little higher.
If you build your own desk or find one that's adjustable, here are some ergonomic tips known to be ideal for your stand-up desk set-up:
- Table height of your desk should be at or slightly below natural elbow height and bend.
- Computer monitor should be at eye level and within 20-28 inches away from your head.
- Give your monitor a 20 degree tilt backwards.
You might be questioning why standing all day would be energizing rather than tiring. Since I am already standing, if I need to pick up a telephone or quickly get something from another room, there is no “inner lazy struggle” of getting up and down from a chair. Sure, it might take some getting used to, standing more often – but it is also great for preventing that restless, antsy feeling in your legs after sitting for a while; you can work on your posture (key for strengthening your back and even your confidence); and hey, you can even sneak in a few ab, calf, glute, or other exercises (depending on whether or not you are surrounded by other co-workers – or care if anyone sees you dancing at your desk).
Obviously there will be times (meetings, conferences, etc.) when you would not be able to reap the benefits of a standing desk – but just consider how much sitting all of us tend to do while driving, seeing a movie or watching television, eating, and other activities. Standing for any extra amount of time can benefit your health. Unlike the treadmill desk or giant yoga ball or other “office furniture fads,” I do not consider a standing desk to be a fitness trend. It is something very practical and can even save space that "regular" desks take up (again, check out the photos of my desk – not overly sized at all).
To inspire your own desk search, here are some from Overstock.com that Team Mizzfit spotted:
And, of course, here's MINE on Amazon.
While I am relieved and grateful that the standing desk helped in my injury recovery process, I am even more grateful that it literally keeps me on my toes and more active in my daily life. If you are sitting down right now, I hope that you will at least consider taking a stand for your health – I have a feeling you will feel better, more productive, and energized. And yes, I am standing at said desk while writing this article (I might be dancing to some music while doing so as well).