- Start small, gradually increase the time you spend standing,
- take breaks when you sit, go for a sit:stand ratio between 1:3 and 3:1.
- Keep varying your posture while you are standing.
To use your standing desk properly check your posture:
- stand upright with a neutral spine,
- your elbow is at 90 to 120 degrees as you forearm rests on the table,
- when looking straight ahead you look at the top third of your screen.
Alternate between sitting and standing
While standing is way better for your than sitting, standing for too long time is not good either. Too long standing can cause lower back pain and problems with the leg muscles, tendons, and other organs of the leg. These issues are often seen in workers who stand all day long, for example production line employees, and bank tellers.
To get the details check this article from the University of Waterloo.
Do not stand too long, start small, give yourself time to ease into standing
Often when people start thinking about getting a standing desk will think that they will have to stand all day long.
Another misconception is that you can start standing full time - this is really a far fetched idea.
Just make sure you gradually increase the amount of time you spend standing. This is not a race.
Vary your standing positions
Varying your position makes sure you do not overload one of your muscles and tendons, and it's better for your circulation too.
The following are the most common poses you could use while standing:
- Stand on both feet.
- Switch your weight to the right foot.
- Switch your weight to the left foot.
- Combine these with leaning a bit forward.
Using a mat will make moving around even easier.
Besides standing and sitting walk and stretch too
Adding walking and stretching to your standing desk routine will make your work more enjoyable and you'll feel less tired even after a long day.
When stretching work the muscles which get most of the load as you are standing.
- Stretch your shoulders, your neck.
- Stretch your biceps, triceps.
- Stretch your chest and lower back.
- Finally stretch your thighs.
Harvard Medical School has a nice article on the importance of stretching.
Track your steps with a wearable
Using a wearable fitness tracker like the Jawbone Up series can help you track your activity throughout the day. This is useful because it allows you to track the number of steps you made and the time you were inactive.
Johns Hopkins Medicine has quick overview on the benefits of fitness trackers for your heart.
Upgrade to a walking workstation
A walking workstation or treadmill desk allows you to work at your desk while you keep walking on a treadmill.
Much like the electric treadmills you can find at the gyms, these have a belt that you can walk on while you keep working.
Do shoulder exercises for better posture
Working with a computer or mobile phone could give you forward head posture, which means that you keep your head more forward than you should - just as you do while working on your computer or checking your phone.
Standing combined with proper keyboard and monitor height can improve this situation, still you can do better with this simple exercise:
- Move your left shoulder to the front.
- Move it up,
- move it back as much as you can
- then let it settle in a more natural position.
- Repeat with the other shoulder.
Work your back for better health
Moving your back while standing at your desk will improve your back's musculature and reduce the pain you might feel.
This forces your back muscles to work and improves your circulation too.
To improve your back's health check these exercises for Mayo Clinic.
Start with a low-cost standing desk
To try out working while standing start with a low-cost solution first.
Working a few hours a day at fixed-height standing desk such as your kitchen counter or at a bar could help you try a stand-up desk.
This way you could try out how it feels to work while standing up without committing a large sum to this project.
If you are into DIY, check this great article on building a standing desk.
You may also want to check this single column crank adjustable sit-stand desk.
Maintain the correct posture.
Standing desks naturally help your posture, you'll just have to care a bit more to perfect it.
- Tighten your abs a bit.
- Tighten your buttocks a bit.
- Check that you do not tilt your pelvis forward or backward.
With the exercises your shoulders will get into place too, and you just achieved the perfect posture!
Careful with leaning in
When you lean forward too much, either when standing or sitting, your hip flexors become shortened while your hip extensors lengthen.
Besides back pain your belly could look bigger than it really is when leaning.
Find the right position for your wrists
If you properly positioned your keyboard, you should be able to use it with your forearms and your wrists kept straight.
Without this you could overstrain your wrists which could lead to repetitive strain injuries.
To reduce the strain on your shoulder and back, your upper arms should be by your side, and your elbow should be at 90 to 120 degrees - your forearms should be just a bit lower than your elbows.
To further prevent wrist pain, check these exercises from the Oxford University Hospital (UK).
Look forward, not down
Checking that you look forward and not down will help you avoid the forward head posture which is common among computer workers.
This setup reduces your eye strain too.Placing your computer screen a little bit lower than eye level reduces strain on your neck and shoulders, which can hunch over and result in incredibly bad posture. Keeping your screen at this level also reduces the risk of eye strain, which is a common complaint for workers who sit before computers all day. By angling your screen slightly lower than your eye level, your neck is a more natural position reducing the strain on your back.
Keep your feet on the floor
Keeping your feet on the floor will reduce the strain on your back and give you the support your body needs.
Crossing your legs could feel good for a while but this could put pressure on your peroneal nerve, making standing up difficult.
Crossing your legs make varicose veins look worse too, and as it tilts your pelvis, crossing your legs always the same way could lead to muscles shortening on one side, and lengthening on the other.
Double check your ergonomics
Keeping the right ergonomics is the most important part of using your standing desk - there's just no point in using one if you do not get the ergonomics right.
Setting the proper desk- and screen height are the basics, but there's always room for improvement - proper keyboard and mouse position, and arm supports can give you additional benefits.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a very good checklist you skim through see before getting your equipment.
Check the keyboard and screen height, arm angle
When you put your forearms on the desk, your forearm and upper arm should be at 90 to 120 degrees. If you are unsure about the angle you can go the other way around and measure the distance between the floor and your elbow, then raise the desk to this height.
You can get the details on the height in our article.
Change your keyboard and mouse position when switching between sitting and standing
Keeping the right wrist position is important to avoid repetitive strain injury.
Your mouse should be at the same level as your keyboard.
Take care of your health
Even though standing is healthier than sitting, it can worsen a few conditions.
Even if you are 110% healthy do not go all in, give your body time to adapt to standing.
Sort out any injuries you might have before starting
If you have week knees and already have problems when walking a standing desk could make it worse. If you feel knee pain after using a standing desk, make sure you check your posture, and get your knees checked too.
Just as with your knees, you'll need correct posture to avoid back pain with a standing desk. If your back muscles are weak, or have issues with your spine or intervertebral discs, a standing desk could make these worse. Make sure you get your doctor's advice!
Keep active even though you started working standing up
Ideally you should be active throughout the day, use a standing desk for work and exercise in your free time.
This is important because the working standing up does not cancel the effects of not exercising, and exercising does not cancel the effect of sitting all day long - you need both.
Do not forget the accessories
Getting a standing desk is a huge step in itself but probably you'll need more accessories to use it effectively.
Get a mat
The mat is one of the important accessories you can get for your desk.
Standing too long on too hard floor could give you foot pain, swelling, neck and back pain because standing on a hard surface is just not comfortable after a while.
Most standing desk mats have an uneven surface, if you move around on it just a little bit your muscles will have to adapt and work which will improve your circulation, and you'll find standing less boring too.
If you are just starting out do not jump into buying one right away - you can safely use your bathroom mat or exercise mat, and you'll see if you need a professional standing desk mat.
Get a chair
A chair is a necessity for a standing desk: you will not want to stand all day long, and when you do not stand your best bet is to sit.
When sitting on the chair make sure you try to sit as upgright as possible without overexerting yourself. Make sure your keyboard and monitor height are set up properly for sitting.
UCLA's Ergonomics department has a short but informative article on setting up your office for ergonomics here.
Use a monitor mount
Often the monitor mount connects to your desk with a simple clamp, which makes the installation a breeze.
Once installed you can adjust your monitor's height and tilt as you wish, which is great for your neck and eyes.
Get a keyboard tray
This way a keyboard tray increases your comfort and adds flexibility to your workspace.
Using a keyboard tray remove the load from your muscles and tendons so you'll feel less strain and pain.
There are stand-only desks on the market featuring an integrated keyboard tray.
Choose your shoes carefully
Unless you use comfortable shoes your feet will become extremely fatigued by the end of the day.
Different shoes place the load on your feet differently, changing your shoes throughout the day will help you avoid straining your feet.
If all else fails get professional help, and talk to you orthopedist.
Mayo Clinic has a great and long article on finding the proper shoes.
Do your standing-desk exercises
Doing a few exercises throughout a day will help you get away from work a little bit, and will help you concentrate better afterwards.
We have compiled a long list of exercises you could do at your standing desk here. Just make sure you start slow and do not overstrain yourself.
... but keep them private
Doing your exercises in front of your coworkers could be pretty distracting, think twice if the exercises are appropriate for your office.
One solution is to use another location in the office:
Last but not least get your work done
It takes time to get used to your standing desk. If you find that you can solve a few tasks sitting do not hesitate! Sit down, get your work done, you'll have plenty of time to stand afterwards.