Should I get a standing desk? It’s a question more, and more people are asking.
Standing desks are cropping up in workplaces, coworking spaces, and home offices around the country. But do they really make you healthier?
And can it be as easy as a using DIY standing desk solution, such as an ironing board standing desk on your hotel room coffee table? We dive into the science in this article, and both Alex and I weigh in with our combined 20 years of standing desk experience.
Should you get a standing desk? Let’s find out.
should i get a standing desk?
When I was in sales in Texas, I had a customer, Randy, who spent 8-10 hours a day at his standing desk. Randy was very passionate and vocal about the positive change the standing desk brought to his life.
He preached that his standing desk habit healed his chronic lower back pain. After 12-hour days waking the pits of the Texas Motor Speedway, he felt strong and robust instead of achy and exhausted.
Randy went on to share that after a long day at the office, he had the energy to complete his “honey-do-list” (Alex hates this term, by the way) instead of collapsing on the couch.
I was impressed by his newfound energy. But, I was much younger than Randy, and my daily exercise seemed adequate. Plus, I spent most of my workday driving my car.
Is A Standing Desk Worth It?
After my talk with Randy, I admittedly blew off the idea of getting a standing desk at home. Then, a week later, while the concept was still fresh in my mind, my friend gave me a cheap Chinese version of the FitBit.
Honestly, I never wanted one. I already knew I was inactive, and I didn’t need hourly guilt trips via beeps and vibrations from my wrist.
But, I strapped it on anyway. Since I averaged 25-35 hours a week driving, I was lucky to hit 3,000 steps a day during the workweek. Some days as low as 2,000 steps.
My new accountability buddy strapped to my wrist prompted me to research. I dove into the benefits of standing desks.
I knew that I had a much larger issue, being inactive. But, could using a standing desk be a small, easy habit change that would nudge me into a more active lifestyle?
What Are The Health Benefits Of Standing Desks?
I was aware of the studies coming out showing that sitting too much may shorten your life, but I didn’t realize how bad my sitting habit was until I ran my typical day through this sitting-time calculator.
This calculator determines “Risk for Sitting Disease.”
LOW risk – sitting less than 4 hours per day
MEDIUM risk – sitting 4 to 8 hours per day
HIGH risk – sitting 8 to 11 hours per day
VERY HIGH risk – sitting 11+ hours per day
In addition to learning that my sitting habit was far worse than I thought, I learned that I was not capitalizing on easy calorie burn.
Your body burns about half the calories sitting as it does standing. Which, as a 6’1″ male weighing 175 pounds, meant that swapping four hours of sitting for standing could help me burn about 200 more calories.
Increased daily caloric deficit benefits your waistline, but also reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
If you’re wondering how many calories are burned at a standing desk, it depends on your weight, height, age, and gender. You can use the tables in this article to estimate your standing desks vs sitting calories.
I also wondered if standing desks are good for your back. But, at this point, I was done researching. It was time for self-experimentation.
My Standing Desk Results
At this point, the question “Should I get a standing desk?” was no brainer. I started using DIY standing desks immediately. On day one, after standing for 4 hours in total, I was a believer.
Having a standing desk immediately injected more movement into my day. Since I was on my feet, I started pacing during phone calls. I was more productive that day because I had more energy.
I still didn’t own a standing desk. Instead, I was finding creative ways to stand and work. In my opinion, the best way to start is with a DIY standing desk.
In hotel rooms at night, I placed the ironing board on the bed and adjusted the height so that I could stand and work. This was my favorite DIY standing desk trick. The ironing board at home also turned into a standing desk.
During the day when I was driving, I would take breaks and fire off some emails from the trunk. Again, I found this to be far more productive than sitting in the comfort of the driver’s seat.
Also, if you’re wondering, that is a 4″ thick Texas Manufacturer’s Directory. I am old school like that.
Within days, my hip flexors loosened up, and my lower back pain from driving subsided. Within weeks, I was noticing tasks fall off my Evernote to-do list more quickly. The increased standing even helped me improve my sleep.
In the excitement of my standing desk discovery, I recommended them to everyone I met. Alex was already hooked and making the same recommendations.
Quick side-note on back pain. Since I have had (and still have) my fair share of back pain flare-ups, undoubtedly, a standing desk will help you. But make sure you also have a quality mattress as this is another significant cause of back pain.
Yoga has also reduced my back pain flare-ups. There are some incredible stretches listed in our couples yoga poses article. Grab your partner and give them a go!
In the years following, we did purchase multiple standing desks for use at home, in the office, and on the go.
So, YES. You should get a standing desk. And, in the rest of this article, we’ll share what we know about the dos and don’ts of using a standing desk.
The Dos And Don’ts Of Standing Desks
So, “Should I get a standing desk?” you ask? YES. Freaking YES!
You should get a standing desk. But there is a lot to consider before investing in a standing desk. Plus, if you don’t do it right, you can hurt yourself.
Standing desks can be a significant investment. Or, they can be cheap, or even free if you use our DIY ironing board standing desk. It’s your choice.
Additionally, the options are endless since standing desks are the biggest trend in office furniture since the 1960’s cubicles. Companies with standing desks are up from 13% in 2013 to 44% in 2017, as reported by the Star Tribune.
We’ve helped a lot of our clients transition to standing desks, and it’s not uncommon to hear reports of temporary back or knee pain. You must listen to your body. There is a study that found too much standing (2+ hours at a time) can be harmful.
On top of that, more companies are on board with purchasing standing desks for their employees to improve engagement, health, productivity, and recruitment. You can even request a standing desk doctor’s note to show your company that you’re motivated to make a healthy change.
Next, let’s talk about the dos and don’ts of incorporating a standing desk into your routine.
1. What Standing Desk Should I Get?
There are two popular options: an adjustable desk or a stationary desk. My Safco fixed-height standing desk is a perfect size. It was the most quality and cheap standing desk I could find.
The height is adjustable, but not quickly. However, this was fine for me. Since I worked from home, there were places to sit if I got tired of standing. I highly recommend this desk, especially if it’s for your home office.
For Alex, her office didn’t have other places to sit, so she opted for her adjustable Versadesk tabletop desk. Her desk used a motor to change, at the press of a button, to a sitting position within seconds.
Very quality, but more expensive than my standing desk. If you’re working in an office, we highly recommend this standing desk. Be sure to request a standing desk doctor’s note and ask your company to pay.
Don’t buy a non-adjustable desk converter (aka a small tabletop that props up your computer on your current desk.) The cheaper ones are too small to fit two monitors, are wobbly, and have height adjustment limitations.
Alex bought one of these to “start” and “save money.” But, she promptly returned it because it was uncomfortable, unstable, and didn’t have space for her keyboard.
Speaking of keyboards, many standing desks come with a keyboard shelf set a few inches below the desk height. We don’t think these are necessary as long as you adjust your monitor height accordingly.
Finally, make sure the desk is big enough. You don’t want to feel cramped at your desk, and you need space for a glass of water. Or, better yet, a gallon of water as a tool to keep you productive during the workday.
2. How High Should A Standing Desk Be?
A proper standing desk posture is critical. Therefore, you need to get this right and take measurements before you make purchases.
The proper height for your standing desk is one inch below elbow height. Stand up straight and relax your shoulders when taking this measurement.
You want the height of your keyboard at a 90-degree angle with your elbows. Then, standing with a straight back and neck, you should be eye level with your screen about 3″ from the top. The screen tilt should be around 20 degrees away from you.
So, now that you know what to do to achieve proper standing desk posture, here’s what not to do.
Don’t do this halfway. Sure, sometimes my posture isn’t perfect with my DIY standing desks of stacked furniture or ironing boards. In this case, I feel the benefits of standing outweigh the consequences of less than perfect standing desk posture.
When you invest in a standing desk, do it right. If you buy a standing desk but don’t have a way to get your monitor at eye level, your back pain will transfer to your neck.
Proper posture is especially hard if you’re using a laptop, since the screen and keyboard are attached. For me, this meant buying a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard so that my laptop could be at eye level.
We’ll get more into our recommended standing desk tools at the end of this post. First, here’s some essential reading on how to transition from a sitting to a standing desk.
Our current stacked furniture DIY standing desk in Mexico.
3. Transitioning To Your Standing Desk
As I said before, listen to your body. Do transition to your new standing desk slowly. I only started working at my standing desk like a flamingo (in standing tree pose) after years of experience.
When you first start working at a standing desk, it’s a bad idea to go from 8 hours of sitting to 8 hours of standing cold turkey. We recommend switching hourly to begin, or else you’re at risk of pain and swelling in your back and lower body.
Also, you MUST use some type of padding below your feet. We have used this anti-fatigue mat, which worked well. In my home office, the resident interior design expert (Alex) bought me this memory foam bath mat, which worked and matched our decor.
Now that we are working remotely as a couple, and living out of suitcases, we stand on our yoga mats or wear comfortable shoes. Extra padding and sitting breaks make the transition pain free.
I worked my way to a full 8 hours a day of standing while Alex took breaks to sit during lunch and her 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM daily snacks.
Some people read that a standing desk can cause injury and decide, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t get a standing desk.” A silly conclusion if you ask me.
You wouldn’t buy new running shoes and expect to be able to run a marathon pain-free the next day. Transitioning to a standing desk is like training for a marathon. It takes time.
Again, don’t rush it and listen to your body. The pros of using a standing desk far outweigh the cons. At the very least, commit to trialing a standing desk for a week and journal about your experience.
If it’s positive, keep standing. If not, find other ways to add more activity into your day.
4. Get Your Company To Pay For It
As long as you present a good case, most companies won’t hesitate to pay for your standing desk or offer a significant subsidy. To create your case, refer to these studies showing increased productivity and health benefits.
Bosses want happy employees and will invest in you. You never know until you ask, even if you’re the first in your office! Remember, it’s possible to get a doctor’s note for a standing desk to strengthen your case.
Once you have your company sold on standing desks, why not ask them if you can work from home for a day or two each week. For the benefits of remote work, read the book Remote: Office Not Required.
“Days spent sitting for hours may increase your risk for an early death no matter how much you exercise, researchers say.”
– Steven Reinberg of CBS News
Don’t just ask your boss once and don’t tell them that it’s something you want. Be persistent and explain that it’s something that you need. What’s more, is they should be thankful that you want to set an excellent example in your workplace.
If your initial request is denied, ask a second and third time. If that’s unsuccessful, go to your boss’s boss and the company HR Manager. I used this tactic countless times, and it always worked.
Standing Desk Gear Recommendations
Here is a list of the standing desk gear that we have used and loved over the last 6 years. We also recently started wearing the UPRIGHT GO 2 posture trainers while working at our sitting and standing desks.
After running a 2-week experiment to test the wearable posture corrector, our results were significant. We now use them daily while working on our laptops. You can see our transformation in our data-driven UPRIGHT GO 2 Review.
Our favorite desks:
- Stationary standing desk for working at home (cheap and simple but quality)
- Height-adjustable desk riser for an office (hopefully a company expense)
- Awesome, compact laptop stand we use for travel (perfect for coworking spaces or coffee shops
- Memory foam mat (for the less industrial look at home)
- Industrial anti-fatigue mat (the safest choice)
- A travel yoga mat (a high quality, eco-friendly, multi-use option)
Laptop standing desk tools:
Active lifestyle wearables:
- The Mi Band Fitness Tracker that we used it for years. It tracks steps, calories, and sleep very well and maintains an 8-day plus battery life.
- Our upgraded Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm) for her and Apple Watch Series 3 (42mm) for him. We love the reminders to move and stand. The Activity Tracker motivates you to exercise, run, walk, or take the stairs more regularly.
If you have a FitBit or Apple Watch, check out our 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge. You’ll learn how to track your calories accurately, and in addition to tracking steps, you only have to track four other numbers critical to weight loss.
Resistance Bands Workout Routine
Download and instantly access the full workout calendar and resistance tracker sheet.
- Videos of 55 leg, core, back, arm, shoulder, and chest exercises with resistance bands.
- Professional instruction to ensure proper form.
- An 8-week calendar and weight tracking sheet with built-in variety and periodization.
- Access to all future revisions to the program.
- Support. We're always here to help.
Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.
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