There’s been a lot of debate over how long you should stand at a standing desk. Some people say that you should stand for as little as 5 minutes, while others recommend standing for up to 8 hours per day. And to be honest, in my journey to figure this out, a lot of the advice I found online was NOT expertly backed. So, what’s the right answer here?
I’ve analyzed expert advice on this and found that you should spend between 2-4 hours standing at a standing desk per day.
However, the truth is that it depends on a few different variables and that research is still developing about using a standing desk. So in this blog post, we’ll piece together how long should you stand at a standing desk using the research we’ve got to date. As more studies come in about this, I’ll be sure to keep you updated!
Standing Desk Benefits
I’ve written quite a few blog posts on the benefits of standing desks but the one I recommend you read if you want to deep dive into this is my Top 5 Articles About Standing Desks blog post. This features all the relevant studies and articles I’ve been able to find about standing desks and I give you an overview of the highlights in the post itself in case you are short on time!
If you’re super short on time and just want to know the basics, here are the main standing desk benefits uncovered so far:
- You’ll burn slightly more calories at a standing desk vs. a sitting desk
- Decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Reduced stress in your working day
- Increased daily productivity
As you can see, standing desks have quite a few health benefits to them and this can cause a ripple effect across your physical and mental health.
Standing Desk Best Practices
It’s not rocket science but you do need to ensure your standing desk is properly set up and adjusted so you can get the best use out of it. For more on this, I recommend reading:
As before, if you just want to get to the bare bones of this then here are a few standing desk best practices you must follow:
- Ensure the height of your standing desk is elbow or waist height to avoid back pain while typing
- Keep your monitors at eye height to avoid neck strain
- Invest in an anti-fatigue mat to stand on at your desk
- Wear appropriate shoes for standing – do not do this with bare feet!
How To Set Up a Standing Desk In Your Office
You’ve got two options when it comes to setting up a standing desk in your office. You can either invest in a brand new standing desk, or you can keep your existing desk and invest in a standing desk converter.
If you’re going to treat yourself to a brand new desk as part of your transition to a standing desk then I recommend you buy a height-adjustable standing desk. This will allow you to adjust the height regularly to suit multiple users and to try out the best height for you while using your standing desk.
If you decide to invest in a standing desk that doesn’t have an adjustable height then please take the time to properly measure your workspace, as well as your elbow, waist, and eye height so you can be sure you get the correct standing desk for your needs. If you don’t do this then you may find yourself experiencing back or neck pain. Nobody wants that!
Standing Desk Converters
This is the option I went for when setting up my DIY treadmill desk. I wanted to keep my existing desk because it’s as wide as an executive desk (without the price tag) and because I was also buying an under desk treadmill, I wanted to keep expenses to a minimum.
I use this standing desk converter for my main monitor and keyboard, for sitting and standing at my desk because I like my monitor to sit at eye level which is accomplished perfectly with this converter.
Like my advice on standing desks above, you should buy a height-adjustable standing desk converter so you can test different heights to work at.
How Long Should You Stand At A Standing Desk?
Now that we’ve covered the basics and you are clued up on standing desks, let’s get to the real reason why you are here – how long should you stand at a standing desk?
When using a standing desk throughout the day you may experience some discomfort if you spend too long standing without taking breaks. Especially if you are new to your standing desk and your leg muscles need some time to adjust to this new activity in your working day.
This can be difficult to manage if you notice an increase in productivity from using your standing desk as you will probably become lost in tasks and forget to alternate between standing and sitting during your working day. The best way to combat this is to set an alarm for every hour you are working to remind you to take a break.
Jack Callaghan, a Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention, conducted the first laboratory-controlled study of sit-stand workstations and found that 50% of participants in the study experienced lower back pain when standing for 2 hours consecutively.
In 2015, The British Journal of Sports Medicine published a press release recommending you stand for up to 2 hours per day during your working hours. The press release also recommends that your daily quota for standing can eventually be increased to 4 hours per day, alternating between sitting to standing, once you are managing 2 hours of standing per day without discomfort.
Finally, the University of Pittsburgh has shared ergonomist-approved recommendations including taking rest breaks every 30 minutes to 1 hour and exercise breaks every 1-2 hours to relieve muscle fatigue.
Expert Advice: Conclusion
Based on the above, it seems the recommended expert advice for how long you should stand at your standing desk per day is somewhere between 2-4 hours per day depending on how long you have been using your standing desk.
However, you should not use the entire 4-hour standing time in one chunk but split it up with bursts of sitting and standing. This makes sense to me because I am sure anyone standing for 4 hours would be experiencing some serious discomfort!
I like the idea of following a pattern like this when you first get started with your standing desk:
- 9am: Spend 1 hour standing at your desk
- 9am – 9.30am: Spend 30 minutes sitting at your desk
- 9.30am – 10.30am: Spend another 1 hour standing at your desk
- 10.30am through the remainder of your working day: Mostly sitting at your desk
As you notice your muscle strength improves and you are sure you aren’t experiencing issues like lower back pain, you could then increase the number of times per day you alternate between 1 hour of standing and 30 minutes sitting at your desk.
No matter what you decide to go for here, make sure you are kind to your body!