How’s That Standing Desk Working Out For You?

How’s That Standing Desk Working Out For You?

Some of us have switched to standing or walking desks to avoid the possible damaging effects of sitting all day. But these desks may not be a cure-all, for a few reasons.

Photo by Kiran Jonnalagadda

First, even if people who sit all day are less healthy, that may not mean that a standing or walking desk will improve your health. A few experts weighed in with scepticism in a Boston Globe article:

“Standing all day isn’t the answer,” said Alan Hedge, a design and ergonomics professor at Cornell University. “That’s where we were 100 years ago, and we needed to develop chairs to prevent curvature of the spine, backaches, and varicose veins.”

While standing still burns a few more calories as our hearts work harder to circulate blood upward, it also puts more strain on our veins, backs, and joints, especially if we’re overweight.

“Studies haven’t yet determined how much standing helps healthwise,” said Dr. I-Min Lee, an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who has studied the risks of sedentary behaviour. In population studies, researchers haven’t been able to determine whether the health benefits of reduced sitting time stem from moving around more or from standing still. And results on whether exercise reduces the health risks of sitting are conflicting.

Another hiccup may come when you look at the effects of walking while working, not on your body, but on your work. A small study published in PLOS One found that people at treadmill desks fared worse on tests of learning, attention, and typing. The subjects weren’t accustomed to working on a treadmill, though, so the effects may be temporary.

When I tried a standing desk, I found it was harder to think. Then again, perhaps I should have tried it for more than ten minutes.

If you’ve tried a non-sitting desk, how did it work out for you? Was there a difficult transition period, and how long did it take to get over it? Definitely tell us how long you’ve been happily using the desk, or if you quit, tell us why!


  • My business is currently running a trial on a single adjustable desk that can be set for standing. Meanwhile 5 people in an office of just under 100 are using makeshift setups so they can stand for at least a few hours every day – or 1 day a week. And this is where I think the solution lies. Enabling people to adjust their workspace to stand for an hour or so a day will give a good balance.

  • Really keen on some kind of electric stand desk with memory controls, but goddamn, Australia is a rip off for these. Yanks can get them super cheap, here you pay more for some crappy desktop raising platform.

    • IKEA sell an adjustable one for less that $500 … No I don’t work for them.

      • Oh they’re here now? Shame they don’t ship, will have to remember to check next time I’m in Sydney.

  • I tried it for a few months but it was too uncomfortable standing all the time. I’ve switched back to a regular desk but make sure I get up and walk/stretch at least once an hour.

    • Was your standing desk not adjustable (aka all standing all the time)?

      If so I can see how that wouldn’t be workable. I’m a very fit and active individual and it still took me quite a while to build up the mental and physical stamina for standing for a reasonable period at work. Even now I rarely stand for more than an hour at a time (a few times a day) and wouldn’t ever go beyond 2 hours.

  • i think the key isnt really either, but its making sure you actually leave your desk at regular intervals and walk around. get muscles and joints moving, muscles and ligaments stretched and blood circulating more then it does at a resting state with the heart beating slightly faster then normal.

  • Love my standing desk, it took probably a month before it wasn’t uncomfortable standing all day, and then standing for work seemed natural and on top of that, it made lunch breaks feel extra special – sitting down to eat and all.

    The down side is that I’ve got plantar fasciitis. I don’t think I developed it BECAUSE of the standing desk, but from a lot of running I was doing last year. But the standing all day has slowed down my recovery from that – my feet hurt.

    The solution has been to get an adjustable standing desk that is easy to put up and down, and to cycle between standing and sitting so I don’t overdo things.

    I guess – like all things – you have to take into account your own circumstances. No one-size-fits-all solutions exist. Don’t be a fundamentalist, and things will be fine.

  • Have had my adjustable standing desk at work for about 3 years now. I would hate to have no choice but to sit all day. I probably spend about 70-80% of time standing and sit for the other time.

    Since I’ve had it many other in the offices around me have tried them and most who have tried one have then got one to use more permanently. But like others have said, these have the option to very easily and quickly sit or stand, so you can alternate as you see fit.

  • Can’t use one sadly, have a bone deformity in my foot that prevents standing and walking for extended periods of time 🙁

  • I’ve been using a stand up desk for around six years. I’ve not had a painful back in that time. Previously I regularly suffered, sometimes quite severe, back pain.

    I recently had to use a sit-down desk for a couple of months while renovating my new office and waiting for my joiner to construct my new custom-designed stand up desk (amongst other things). I really disliked having to sit so much and surprised myself at how much I longed for a stand up desk again.

    Of course I do get sore feet if standing for prolonged periods. Fortunately I work for myself as an Architect and Interior Designer and hence perform a variety of tasks and work very flexible hours. I find when standing I do move more than I would in a chair. For instance, when I think about the next sentence I’m writing I turn around. Or if I am listening to music I have a little dance. I don’t just stand still for prolonged periods.

    I also have two work spaces: one holds my computer which is the stand up arrangement, the other is a layout table that I use when not doing computer related tasks. This works well for me. However if I needed to just have one desk that did everything I think I would want an easily height adjustable desk so I could have a mix of standing and sitting.

  • I stand in the morning and sit in the afternoon, I find concentrating on something is easier to do when sitting but for email, etc standing is fine.

    My solution was cheap and easy, got a $9 Ikea table that I put on my desk to raise to standing height for my laptop luckily it’s the perfect height for me, In the afternoon I just take the table off and go back to sitting.

    I am using an Ikea laptop stand which seems to improve the angle for typing and the table is white so wireless mouse is fine direct on the surface.

    Been doing this for over 6 months now with no issues.

  • Three years ago at work, I started with the LCD screen atop a reinforced cardboard box and keyboard/mouse on top of an old PC tower case. After several months, boss agreed to a more permanent solution. We had a carpenter build a stand to my custom specs that sits on my desk out of the same timber veneer as the desk so it all matches. The keyboard section is adjustable in height using adjustable shelving brackets. The LCD has its own height adjustment. These serve only for different height people as I never adjust these.
    If I need feel the need to sit for a bit, I have a bar stool which I can lean on or sit on. The height of that is just right. I also use an anti fatigue mat to stand on.

  • I recently switched to a standing desk due to a severe back pain that was caused by prolonged sitting in front of a work desk. As I didn’t want to experience the back pain again, I tried standing. It was hard adjusting the first few days. Feet hurts. After some research, I found that a standing mat was a big help to my dilemma. So I googled for a standing mat, was surprised there were lots of choices. Got the one with the best reviews albeit expensive, Am I glad I did buy one, it made such a huge difference! Now, after a few months, it feels weird to sit down in front of my work desk after getting used to a standing desk. Btw, I got the CumulusPro anti- fatigue mat.

  • I bought an electric standing desk just over a year ago when I was working on contract for someone else. Now I’ve gone full-time into my and my wife’s business and have my own small office that’s just big enough for a corner-unit sitting desk and the standing desk. I have my Windows PC on the sitting desk and Ubuntu Desktop on an old PC on the standing desk and remote into the windows PC whenever I stand here.
    I no longer use the electric motor as the desk stays in the standing position all the time now and I don’t stand for long periods. However, I certainly can feel the difference in my lower back when I regularly have short breaks from sitting during the day.
    Even if there’s no other benefits, if you have back problems, I highly recommend one of these desk. And I do find the change of location good for productivity as well.

  • I wish people would stop quoting the PLOS One study. They compared people who just started using a treadmill desk with the sitters. It took me a few weeks to a month to get used to it. Now I walk 5-6 hours a day. Within the walking time I take breaks every hour or so for 15 minutes to a couple of hours where I would be sitting. (I write code for a living)

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