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How to use a standing desk

While a standing desk may be beneficial, there are some things that need to be clarified before you dive full force into standing eight hours a day.

Since the article Is sitting the new smoking? was posted I have had a lot of inquiries about whether or not a standing desk is the way to go and if it is, which desk is the most appropriate for correct standing posture at your workstation? This is a very complicated question. While the answer may be that a standing desk is the better way to go, there are some things that need to be clarified before you dive full force into standing eight hours a day.

The goal for anyone with a sedentary job is to get up and move. Finding ways to do that—whether it be standing and pacing during conference calls or just standing up and walking around your desk chair—is something that everyone should try to incorporate into their work day. A standing desk may be the answer, but it may also cause problems.

Do not try to go from a completely sedentary position to standing for an 8-hour day; you will most likely develop back pain or leg pain, become frustrated and go back to sitting. The best way to implement a standing work station is to utilize both a standing and a sitting workstation so when it is appropriate you are able to shift from standing to sitting. Don't forget, most people blame excessive amount of sitting on their jobs but fail to get up and move when they get home. When you get home, plan to be up and moving for most of the evening, not sitting down and watching TV or working on the computer. Keep moving as long as you can at night. Make sure you are finding every opportunity not to sit.

Most employers are not going to pay for two different desk set ups. There are two ways around this. The first is to stick with the traditional desk set up where you are seated. In order to incorporate more standing in your day, stand when you are talking on the phone or you are speaking with a colleague in your office.  Find specific times that you say to yourself, when I am performing this activity I will stand up. You will find that if you earmark specific activities that you perform during the day and commit to standing during them, you can conceivably stand for almost half of your day.

The other compromise that can happen is that you get a workstation that will convert from a sitting to a standing desk. Something like the Ergotron stand/sit desk allows your computer setup to go from seated to standing in a matter of minutes. While this is a good solution, it does come with drawbacks:

  1. Computer and monitor placement will not be perfect due to the fact that you must use a platform that is able to move.

  2. Limitations in the desk that you can choose in order for this type of work station to be attached.

The option of going to a completely standing desk needs to have some things considered as it is being set up. When you set up your standing desk it should be set up much the way that your seated desk is.

  1. You want to make sure that you are able to bend your elbows to ninety degrees and place the keyboard accordingly.

  2. You want to make sure that your wrists are in neutral positions. You should roll your shoulders up, back and drop them down. The monitor should be at eye level and directly in front of you.

  3. Your mouse should be placed next to the keyboard, again so it can be used with your wrist in neutral and your elbows at approximately 90 degrees.

  4. You should be standing with your knees slightly bent, not completely locked out in the straight position. You should not be standing in heels, but preferably in comfortable shoes, like sneakers or a chunky dress shoe. Even flats for women do not provide enough support for them to allow for proper support if you are going to be on your feet all day. Make sure to wear supportive shoes. Shifting your weight back and forth throughout the day will help unload some of the structures in your back and legs making it more comfortable to stand.

One thing to remember though is that even if you go from a sitting desk and make the complete change to a standing desk, you still do not want to stand in one place. The idea is to move. Standing still for too long can be harmful for your back and legs. On the other hand, you do not immediately want to go to using a treadmill desk or a stair stepper desk. There is injury involved with these if you are not paying attention. You need to find a happy medium where you are able to move or shift your weight but not move too much that you risk injury.

As you transition your workstation make sure you are taking every precaution to ensure proper setup.  You can set yourself up for injury with improper desk setups, which will make a standing desk impossible to use if you are physically unable to stand for long periods of time.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.