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What is a Standing Desk?

Olga Z
Updated on: May 23, 2022

Many people spend the majority of their eight-hour workday at a desk. All of that time spent sitting has impacted the energy expenditure of the average adult, contributing to an ever-increasing sedentary lifestyle. However, the human body wasn’t designed to sit all day. In recent years, standing desks have grown in popularity as employers and employees have worked to improve their health through increased daily activity.

Standing at a desk reduces the chances of heart disease, helps control blood sugar levels, and improves mental health and alertness. These desks get you on your feet and moving far more easily than a traditional desk. They promote good health, but they aren’t a fix-all for poor diet and lack of exercise. They’re just one part of a multi-faceted approach to a healthy lifestyle.

Stand-Up Desk Health Benefits

The name says it all. A standing desk is a desk with a desktop that’s raised so you can stand while using it. Their benefits reach far and wide, but strategic use is what takes full advantage of what they have to offer.

Standing desks were designed to alleviate the low back pain and poor health that results from a day spent sitting. Research has shown that standing desks can help you to:

However, the benefits of a standing desk are greatest when you split your time between sitting and standing. Prolonged time spent doing either one keeps the body in a static position that’s hard on many of the body’s systems. Like sitting all day, prolonged standing can cause lower back pain, changes in heart health, and physical fatigue. Those who can alternate between sitting and standing tend to find a balance between activity and inactivity that contributes to happier, more productive work days.

Standing for as little as a half-hour can positively affect your physical health. When used along with good sitting and standing posture, a consistent change between sitting and standing can keep you alert, improve heart health, and put you on the road to an active lifestyle.

Types of Standing Desks

Finding the right standing desk can help you achieve the right sit/stand balance. Your available space, the layout of your office or home, and the number of people who’ll use the desk influence which type of standing desk will be best for you.

  • Standing Desk Converter: These small platforms rest on top of a traditional desk. Some are a static platform, while others offer several height options to get a better fit. Converters are inexpensive and take advantage of your existing desk with minimal effort on your part. On the downside, you’ll need to make sure you get the right size, and you’ll have to store it when it’s not in use.
  • Fixed Standing Desk: These desks are not adjustable. They have only one height, which works great if the desk is the right height for you. If not, your body position could put the keyboard and monitor too high or too low. Hunched or raised shoulders or staring at a low monitor can be hard on your body. However, of all of the full-size standing desks, fixed standing desks are the most affordable.
  • Sit-Stand Desk: Sit-stand desks have a portion of the desktop that raises, so the desk can work for sitting or standing. These desks are an excellent option because you can adapt your position throughout the day.
  • Mechanical Standing Desk (Standing Desk with Hand Crank): Mechanical standing desks have a manual crank that raises or lowers the height to the user. These desks work well for multiple users. However, they’re noisy and don’t usually accommodate a quiet office environment.
  • Electric Standing Desk: A mechanical standing desk’s weakness is noise. Electric standing desks get rid of the noise with a smooth electric-powered motor. With the push of a button, the height-adjustable desk moves up or down to fit each user. Some have memory features to remember two to five users. These desks are pricey, but they’re a great option for multi-user homes or offices.
  • Treadmill Desk: These desks have a platform attached to a low-speed treadmill. The treadmill’s maximum speed typically tops out at 2.5 mph. These desks cost several thousand dollars and don’t offer any sitting options. However, some have monitor arms and are a great option for offices where employees may only use the workstation periodically throughout the day.

Get the Right Fit

Ergonomics matter whether you’re sitting or standing. A standing desk that doesn’t fit the user could lead to increased health issues rather than alleviating them.

The most important adjustment is height. The elbows should maintain a 90-degree angle while typing. That also means the keyboard and mouse should be close to each other, so the arms don’t extend when using either one.

Monitor position also comes into play. Generally, the monitor should be at about eye-level or slightly above or below. A gentle tilt of 10 to 20 degrees can also help put the monitor in a sight-line position.

A desk height that maintains all of these angles and positions helps to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other overuse issues that come from poor ergonomics.

FAQs

Can a standing desk help with weight loss?

Standing desks were once advertised as a weight-loss tool. But a few years and experiments down the road and the evidence doesn’t support that claim. Yes, standing desks help you burn more calories than sitting. However, over a six-hour period, you only burn about 54 extra calories. At that rate, it would take 62.5 days to burn one pound.

The use of extra calories is always a good thing. However, don’t count on a standing desk to make a direct contribution to your weight loss plan.

Can standing desks improve work performance?

There’s scientific evidence that work production, like typing speed and accuracy, does not go down while using a standing desk. You don’t need to worry about the standing position getting in the way of your work. On the positive side, there’s also evidence that standing desks help alertness and attention. If you think about it, it’s hard to get drowsy and doze off if you’re standing. Does that mean your productivity and performance improve? Maybe and maybe not. It depends on each person and the type of work they do, but there’s potential.

How can a standing desk help promote an active lifestyle?

Standing desks only cause you to burn about 54 extra calories over a six-hour period. However, standing lends itself to other activities and postures that burn calories and prevent weight gain.

For example, if you’re standing at your desk working on a project, you can pace, stretch, or do other activities while thinking, dictating, or brainstorming. If someone walks by your desk, you may be more tempted to walk with them to the water cooler. They also promote movement from sitting to standing and back again that can help prevent pain and health issues that could limit your activity in the future.

Conclusion

Standing desks contribute to more active habits even though they aren’t a catch-all solution to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Smart use of these desks, namely switching between sitting and standing, can promote the activity that many office workers are missing in their work life.

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