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What You Need to Know About Standing Desks - Part I

Posted by Applied Ergonomics on

Standing desks and computer workstations have finally gone mainstream, and we are your experts. We’re going to be introducing a whole new section on our website for standing desk options. Meanwhile, there’s a lot to know and a lot of options for accomplishing the benefits you are looking for. [UPDATE: The website now features the ergonomic products you need to join the sit-stand revolution!] So what are the benefits of standing at work and how can you achieve them practically? And further, is sitting really so bad, or is it just that sitting in a bad chair with bad workstation ergonomics is the culprit? That will take a whole other blog post, but it’s worth asking.

Standing up while working can have multiple benefits. For many people, it can reduce back pain associated with sitting in a bad posture. Standing burns more calories than sitting, too, and has been demonstrated to help people lose weight. Mark Benden, formerly an ergonomist with Neutral Posture and now a professor at Texas A&M University, wrote a book called What Can You Stand to Lose making this case. Standing can help your lymphatic and circulatory systems, and it helps keep you alert. It’s hard to fall asleep standing up, isn’t it? There are some caveats though, even for the healthiest among us, and certainly for those under medical care. Please consult your medical provider who knows your condition best if you are under treatment.

So, what are the caveats for healthy users? 

First, plan to wear supportive cushioned shoes. That may seem obvious, but many miss it. Additionally, while it may be a little inconvenient to move out of the way when switching to a chair, an anti-fatigue mat is a smart idea. You can choose a smooth surface or a bubble mat, each in an ideal size for you. If you are in bare feet, the bubble mat will give you a bit of a massage and activate acupressure points in the soles of your feet. 

Second, start with the short stretches of standing at a time and work your way up, or don’t. Many people are best off not standing for more than 15 minutes at a time. Stay sensitive to your body and don’t judge it. 

Third, don’t assume that just because you are standing, your ergonomics are good. Monitor positioning and keyboard and mouse placement are just as critical sitting or standing, and you need to minimize reaching, so for many articulating keyboard/mouse tray is still the best idea. Your monitor position must also be adjusted well, both vertically and in depth to accommodate your eyes and your neck. For many people these spots are different when sitting or standing, thus using a monitor arm is helpful. 

And make sure that you have something to prop one foot up on, and preferably something on each side of you to change feet, so that you shift your weight frequently from side to side. Think of a pub, where some people stand for hours enjoying a few beers. I don’t know the etymology, but I suspect that they are also called bars because they all have a bar, or footrest, to make it more comfortable to stand.

Look for the next post in this series. We’ll talk about different desks and accessories to accomplish your version of the standing desk revolution. Feel free to chime in with questions, or your own observations!