Newcastle Herald

How long to stand at your standing desk

Here we uncover the best practices on how long you should stand at a sit-stand desk. Picture Shutterstock
Here we uncover the best practices on how long you should stand at a sit-stand desk. Picture Shutterstock

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If you're looking to buy a standing desk then you might be wondering how long you should be standing at it. Are there any guidelines and what's the science behind them? In this article, we uncover the best practices on how long you should stand at a sit-stand desk.

Key takeaways:

  • If you work 8 hours a day then being in a standing position for 2 to 4 of those hours is a good goal to set (or to a ratio of 1:2).
  • If you are new to standing desks then introducing short and regular 5-minute periods of standing will help with the transitioning phase.
  • Being comfortable whilst standing is important. Invest in yourself by buying a good quality anti-fatigue mat and a pair of comfortable shoes.

How long should you stand at a ait-stand desk?

Generally speaking, and depending on your own preferences, standing for anywhere between 2 and 4 hours per day at a standing desk is a good goal to aim for. Of course, you should start slow and the 2 to 4 hours should be cumulatively achieved in smaller periods throughout the day rather than standing excessively long.

There are no strict requirements regarding the ideal duration of standing at a standing desk. And it's not the standing part that solely generates the benefits of a workstation that is able to move up and down. The mental and health benefits of using a standing desk come from the extra movement your body engages in, either by activating core muscles when standing, or the movement of switching between positions.

Guidelines for standing at a sit-stand desk

The ideal standing time at a standing desk can vary depending on your physiology, the type of work you do, and the environment. We've compiled several suggestions from reputable online sources and studies to make it easier for you.

How long to stand at your standing desk
How long to stand at your standing desk

Five to twenty minutes each hour of minimum recommended standing time ensures that there are periodic breaks from sitting. 5 minutes is also particularly good if you are just starting out since you don't want to overload yourself too fast. You can slowly increase the standing duration to 10 minutes in the following weeks, working up to 50 per cent of your workday (or around 4 hours). For most Australians, this is a reasonable and doable goal to work towards.

On the flip side, standing time comprising more than 80 per cent of your workday (or roughly 6 hours) is likely to result in long-term detrimental effects on your health and well-being. If you perform a role where excessive standing is required (e.g., nurses, teachers) then it's advisable to take brief sitting breaks or at least move around as best you can.

Up to 45 minutes at a time is thought to be the ideal standing duration where a nice balance between sitting and standing is achieved. On the other hand, it's advised to sit for around 30 minutes at a time to avoid weariness and pain. These durations aren't at all fixed and they can be tailored to what you need or are more comfortable with.

No matter how long it is you stand at your height-adjustable desk, the most important thing is movement and engagement of your body. Standing for brief periods and keeping active by doing simple stretches will do you worlds of good for your posture, well-being, and general outlook during the day.

For every 30 to 45 minutes, you can switch positions, use a different piece of sitting furniture, have a stretch, make a coffee, or go for a quick stroll. These ideas can lessen the negative consequences of prolonged sitting and promote a healthier and more effective work environment.

Things that affect how long you can stand for

It's challenging to try to spend several hours a day standing up, especially if you recently got your standing desk. It's crucial to be aware of the various aspects that, in my personal experience, affect how long you can stand.

  • Personal comfort - Personal comfort is a key factor and perhaps the one that is pondered about the most. While some individuals find it easier to naturally stand for extended periods of time, others may experience discomfort or tiredness more rapidly. Pay attention to how your body is feeling and take a seat when needed.
  • Fitness and endurance - It's crucial to be physically fit and resilient. Standing for longer lengths of time may be easier for individuals who are physically fit and have good endurance. However, if your fitness level isn't where you'd like it to be, you could find yourself easing into regular standing, which is great.
  • Your desk setup - You will feel uncomfortable and stand less if your standing desk is not ergonomically set up so that you can work at the ideal height. Ensure that your workstation, monitor, and other devices are adjusted to the perfect height for your frame.
  • Choice of footwear - How long you stand might be influenced by the shoes you wear. To help reduce foot and leg tiredness, you can stand for extended amounts of time by wearing supportive, comfortable shoes or anti-fatigue mats which are amongst the best standing accessories you can buy.
  • Health ailments that you may have - Ailments that you may have with your health Long-term standing may be difficult for you if you have a pre-existing medical condition like leg pain, back pain, or circulatory issues. Speak with a healthcare professional to seek suggestions on how to handle these conditions.
  • The adjustment phase - If you're new to utilising a standing desk, your body might need some time to become used to it. It is a good idea to ease into the process by beginning with shorter standing sessions and progressively increasing them. You can stand for longer lengths of time by adding short breaks for movement to your routine, such as stretching, moving around, or performing quick exercises.
  • The surrounding environment - Your ability to stand for an extended period of time might be influenced by how comfortable your desk and surroundings are. Variables including lighting, temperature, and the availability of supportive equipment may have an impact on your standing stamina.
  • Mental focus - Your ability to concentrate and maintain your attention may have an impact on how long you stand, but these skills shouldn't be your primary concern when first starting out. While I, like some others, find that standing improves my ability to focus, other people may discover that they must in order to work intensely.
  • Nutrition and hydration - Similar to being active and healthy, maintaining a nutritious diet and staying hydrated can affect your mood and general well-being, which may have an effect on how long you can stand before becoming fatigued.
  • Age - Your age affects how long you can stand without getting uncomfortable. Older people may find it more difficult to stand for extended periods of time due to decreasing muscular strength and joint flexibility, but physical problems will also play a role.

5 Tips on how you can improve your standing experience

Tip 1 - Get the optimal ergonomic set-up

Ensure that your standing desk setup is in an optimal ergonomic configuration. Your monitor screen should be at eye level, and your keyboard and mouse should be positioned such that your arms are parallel to the desktop and the floor. While standing and sitting, your wrists should naturally rest on the desktop and not be tilted upward which could cause discomfort.

Tip 2 - Start with 5 minutes of standing

Although 5 minutes per hour might not seem like much, it's an easy initial step for people who may have bought their first standing desk. Tiny steps lead to big steps and this will result in a positive change in your behaviour. After some time, standing up will not only be a natural thing to do, it will be enjoyable.

Tip 3 - Use technology

Due to our busy schedules and ongoing responsibilities, it's easy to forget to stand during the working day. To alleviate this, you can simply set a timer on your computer or smartphone to remind you when to sit or stand. This will ultimately become ingrained in your thinking, making the transition process to using a standing desk much easier.

Tip 4 - Get comfortable

It might be an extra cost after purchasing a new standing desk, but an anti-fatigue mat is very worthy of consideration as an additional item. Of course, you could wear a pair of comfortable shoes but you can't replicate the benefits of a standing desk mat. Anti-fatigue mats reduce discomfort in your feet and lower legs by promoting blood flow circulation.

Tip 5 - Be active

The simplest and most well-liked technique to stay active at a standing desk is to stretch. After all, the activity connected with switching between sitting and standing is what provides the majority of the advantages of using a standing desk. Not only does it feel good, stretching has the ability to reduce pain, improve circulation, and increase flexibility.

Is it good to stand for long periods?

Standing desks are not a miracle to cure office aches and pains and standing for periods longer than two hours can make it worse. Standing for extended periods of time is not a sound use of a standing desk and can cause a number of health problems, such as stiff necks, shoulders, lower backs, and legs, varicose veins, leg edema, and generalised muscular fatigue.

Pregnant women are recommended to refrain from standing for prolonged periods of time. However, as standing is a natural human posture, standing alone does not specifically pose a health risk.

The risks of excessive standing

In addition to other health issues, prolonged standing can typically cause lower back pain, varicose veins, leg edema, reduced blood flow, and tight shoulders and neck.

Long-term health issues may arise for professionals like nurses and teachers who spend most of their workday on their feet. Because standing for brief periods of time can be beneficial for the body, it is advisable to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. If you work at a desk or perform a lot of computer work, you can lower your chance of developing chronic pain by using a standing desk and an ergonomic office chair.

Is sitting or standing more beneficial?

Excessive periods of sitting or standing are well documented to have potential detrimental health effects on your body. Both sitting and standing have benefits and drawbacks, so it's important to strike a balance that satisfies your needs and enhances your overall well-being. To get the greatest mental and physical benefits, you should try to frequently swap positions and be active with a range of motions.

Too much standing can be uncomfortable, while too much sitting will contribute to a sedentary lifestyle that might cause postural problems. When using a standing desk properly, you should alternate between sitting and standing for regular intervals, with plenty of activity in between. Stretching, making coffee, or engaging in another activity all contribute to the necessary body motions you need.

Alternative standing options at a height-adjustable desk

Investing in a height-adjustable standing desk can support a decrease in sedentary behaviours. Instead of adding the relatively expensive cost of an ergonomic chair, these are sitting substitutes you might want to think about.

  • Perching stools, also known as leaning chairs or sit-stand stools, provide you with the choice to perch or partially sit down while working. You are compelled to engage your core body muscles to maintain balance because you are leaning on the stool. Stability and comfort should be taken into account when choosing the best stool and are great alternatives to the standard office chair.
  • Balance balls encourage more dynamic movements while seated. They improve posture by engaging your core muscles and make sitting more entertaining. Not everyone may be able to use these seats, and there may be an adjustment time.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, how long should you stand at a standing desk depends on you and what you want to achieve. A good standing posture goes part in parcel with using a standing desk correctly as a poor posture may result in health problems, feeling uncomfortable, and increased sitting. But the more standing you do, along with any additional movements, will go a long way in improving your body's self-awareness, comfort, and energy levels in your desk job.

Disclaimer: This story may include affiliate links with BestStandingDesks partners who may be provided with compensation if you click through. ACM advises readers consider their own circumstances and needs. You should verify the nature of any product or service, and consult with the relevant regulators' website before making any decision.