Is a Standing Desk Right for Me?

A standing desk is a workstation that allows you stand to do your computer job rather than sitting.  Optimally, the desk is adjustable so you can sit or stand while working.  These types of desks have become more popular lately.

Is sitting really that bad?

The answer is maybe.  Dr. James Levine, MD, PhD is a professor of Medicine at the Mayo clinic and widely credited with saying, sitting is the new smoking.  There are certainly links between a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  In an effort to change this many people are switching to standing desks.  However, studies show there is not a large change in the caloric demand of standing all day versus sitting all day – only about 90 calories a day.  So standing during the day will likely not affect your waistline.

Americans sit a lot.  A lot of that time is in front of a screen consuming media.  According to the market research group Neilsen, Americans spend 11 hours on media consumption per day.  So perhaps, screen time is the new smoking.  All joking aside, smoking is much worse for your body than watching a screen or sitting at your desk.

A few things to consider before making a switch to a standing desk:

Consider your body

If the thought of standing all day makes your feet ache and your back hurt then perhaps a standing desk is not for you. People who have back or neck pain when sitting may really benefit from changing to a standing workstation.

How are the ergonomics of your current desk?

  • The ergonomic set up of a sitting desk does not change a whole lot when you are standing.
  • If you are working on a laptop, you should consider a laptop stand with separate keyboard so you can
  • elevate your screen to an appropriate height

Footwear, padding, and footrests

  • Consider your shoes if you plan to be standing more frequently. Do they support your foot? Are they comfortable? Do they allow you to stand with neutral posture?  Sometimes a heeled shoe can put the spine and knees into an awkward position.  You may benefit from keeping a more comfortable pair of shoes near your desk to change into when you stand.
  • Padding is not just important in your shoe, but also having a soft surface to stand on may help with fatigue.
  • You may also find, having a small step stool nearby to place one foot on when you are standing is more comfortable way to unload one foot at a time and it allows your spine to stay in a more n
  • eutral position.

Start slow

  • If you are new to standing during the day don’t be too ambitious. Try standing for 10-15 min at a time, 1-2 times during the day.  If that feels good then gradually progress the frequency you are standing during the day.  Try to only advance one thing at a time.  Listen to your body.

Move more

  • One key to improving health can be moving more. The Department of Health recommends 150 min of moderate exercise or 75 min of vigorous exercise a week as a minimum.  This can be split up during the week and during a given day.  For example, if you are trying for 30 min of walking 5 days a week, you can walk for 10 min 3 times a day.  More important than using a standing desk may be working more exercise into your daily routine.

If you have made the switch to a standing desk and it has been bothering your body you may benefit from seeing a physical therapist for a more thorough evaluation of your body and your posture in sitting and standing. The physical therapists at Union Physical Therapy in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood are trained to assess all areas of the body and can help with solutions for pain with static positions and movement.  Call 206-588-0855 or go on line to schedule an evaluation today.

Author: Amanda Benson has been practicing physical therapy in Seattle since 2005.  She has advanced training and certification in manual therapy and orthopedics.