4 Tips for Using a Standing Desk

shutterstock_71754802Do you sit most of the day? Think about it: commuting, working at a desk, eating meals, watching television. It’s no wonder that adults typically spend more than half of their waking hours being sedentary—primarily from prolonged sitting.

All that sitting is worse for you than you might realize. In fact, excessive sitting increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic conditions.

The worst part? Even moderate, regular exercise doesn’t balance out the harmful effects of sitting.

An obvious way to sit less is to stand more. But if you work full time, you likely sit at a desk all day. An easy solution? Use a standing desk. Here are four tips to properly stand at work:

#1 Create or buy a standing desk

There are many standing desks on the market that allow you to easily transition between sitting and standing. But if you don’t want to pay for a desk, you can easily create your own raised surface.

Anything can be used to elevate your work surface: set your monitor on empty file boxes or a moveable shelf, your mouse on yoga blocks, your keyboard on a stack of books or storage bin—just scour your office for unused or rarely used items with the right height and stability. Modify your configuration until it’s easy to set up and comfortable to use. (Or you can even make a desk for just $22 from IKEA items.)

#2 Make sure you’re in the proper position

Standing improperly can cause neck and back pain, so make sure your workstation is set up properly:

  • Your arms should bend at a 90 degree angle to the keyboard. The table height (where your keyboard and mouse rest) should be at or slightly below elbow height.
  • The monitor should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes. Tilt the screen slightly away from you.
  • Your eyes should look slightly down toward the monitor. Be sure you’re not bending your neck, slumping or leaning your body toward the monitor.
  • Stand on an anti-fatigue mat. If you don’t have a carpeted office, try standing on an anti-fatigue mat to make standing more comfortable.

(To visualize the setup, see this helpful graphic.)

#3 Sit and stand

Once you start using a standing desk, you may notice that you feel good for a while, but then your back and legs may start hurting. It’s OK—and perhaps best—to vary between sitting and standing. When you do sit, I suggest replacing your office chair with an exercise ball, which can improve core strength and posture.

#4 Take frequent movement breaks

Whether you’re sitting or standing, try to take a movement break every 20 minutes or so, and take a short walk every couple of hours. Movement increases blood flow and boosts brainpower. While taking a break might not seem productive, it actually makes you more productive throughout the day.

Standing more is a simple step you can take to stay well. It doesn’t take much extra energy—just a little effort and consistency. Hopefully these tips can help you create a useful setup in your workspace.

What tips can you add for standing more at work?

[1] http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/43/2/81.full
[2] http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/43/2/81.full
[3] http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/2014/june_25/cru_inactivity-cancer-risk-latest-research.html

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    • 2


      This article is funny timing for me, because now that I’m 20 weeks pregnant, it’s actually really difficult to stand much during the day. This chair looks like a good solution. It doesn’t look like you can adjust the height, though—is that right? I get pretty achy in my shoulders if the angle of my arms in relation to my keyboard isn’t just right.

      • 3

        Steph b. says

        That’s true re: the height. There might be other models that offer that, though? Or maybe something to prop up the keyboard if the chair is too high.

        • 4


          Yes, true! I’ll have to do some looking. It seems like a great option. I used to sit on an exercise ball but it wasn’t very comfortable—this looks like a good in-between option.

  1. 5


    Great tips, Stacy. I use my laptop battery to guide my sitting/standing rotation. I stand and keep it unplugged. When the battery needs recharging, I sit down and plug in until it’s charged again. Has proven to be an easy reminder and about the right sitting/standing mix for my body. Plus have you seen this: http://www.fluidstance.com? A friend from high school is in the mix (featured on Fast Company!) with this invention.

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