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Are Standing Desks Really Better for You?

Are Standing Desks Really Better for You?

We’ve all heard it - sitting is the new smoking. In other words, the amount of time we spend sitting at our desks each day is doing harm to our bodies.

People who spend the majority of their day sitting down can find themselves at severely
increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and even mental health afflictions.  

So what can we do to stop this? If you’re working in an office eight hours a day, sitting down for long periods can be hard to avoid.

man using standing desk

There are many ways that people try to decrease the amount of time they spend sedentary, and one of them is a standing desk. But are the benefits of a standing desk as they seem? 

Are there any negatives to using a standing desk? Here we’ll not only look at the benefits of a standing desk, but also whether or not there are any negatives associated with them, and what you can do to get the most out of yours.

So what are the benefits of standing desks?

Sitting for long periods every day increases your risk of various health conditions. These include back pain, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers.

This is not to mention the risks to your mental health, as people who sit for the majority of their day are  
more susceptible to anxiety and depression - and even a gym session after work won’t necessarily reverse this.

Standing desk benefits infographic

It goes without saying that a standing desk, by simply reducing the amount of time spent sitting, will help minimise these risks. Even standing for just 30 minutes at a time, a few times a day, can help minimise these risks.

Common sense suggests that a standing desk is better for you due to the simple fact that it decreases the amount of time spent sitting. But is it as simple as that? Are there any risks associated with using a standing desk, or is there anything that you should be aware of?

Are there any negatives associated with standing desks?

The first problem people find with a standing desk is simply getting used to them. Think about it - you’ve gone from sitting down at your desk for eight hours a day to standing for long periods of time. It is only natural that your feet and legs will be uncomfortable as you get used to this.

It may mean that you need to get a more comfortable set of shoes out for when you will be standing at your desk, but over time you will get more used to it and, like any new exercise you do, you will get more and more comfortable the more you do it.

So to get the full benefits of a standing desk, you should just stand all day, right? Wrong. Just as much as sitting all day can pose risks to your health,  so can a day on your feet. Standing all day can also lead to back pain, as the discs in your back can compress.

Ironically, standing all day can increase your risk of heart disease too. It can also lead to problems with your feet, ankles, and knees, including varicose veins and blood pooling in your feet.

woman with back pain

Therefore, the answer is not to do away with sitting altogether - the answer is to find an equilibrium, that happy medium. Share your time between sitting and standing to get the best of both worlds. 

When you are standing, it is important to make the most of your time on your feet.  To get the most out of your standing desk, you need to know how to use it properly.

How to get the most out of your standing desk

A standing desk seems to be a simple invention. You would think that all you need to do is raise your desk to a height that looks right that’s that.

But just as much as it is important to have correct positioning when you are sitting, it is just as important to set your standing desk set-up in a way that is ergonomically beneficial.

Setting up a standing desk is actually a lot like setting up your desk normally. The positioning of your standing desk depends on you, so the first thing is to stand at your desk with proper posture - shoulders back, eyes forward.

Simply raise your desk to the point where your eyes should rest towards the top of your monitor, about where the URL bar sits. The keyboard should be at a height where you elbows are positioned at a 90 degree angle, with your forearms parallel to the floor.

There are many guides available online to help you position your standing desk like this one at

Graphic showing how to use a standing desk

You may find you need to get yourself something like an 
anti-fatigue mat to work towards increasing the amount of time you can spend standing and all the benefits of standing at your desk -  with a bit of trial and error you will eventually find the best set-up for you.

What do the experts say about standing desks?

With anything new you try, it is important to see what the experts say. So what do they say about standing desks?

Well, the jury is still out as to how much a standing desk will benefit you, which is expected with a product as new as this. But there is certainly a lot of interest, and a lot of studies have been done about the various benefits.

We have already addressed the health benefits - standing at your desk will also simply burn more calories than sitting.

One study found that those who used a standing desk
burned 54 more calories per day than those who didn’t. 

calorie stairs

Furthermore, people with increased muscle mass burned more calories, meaning the effects are better felt the more long-term the desks are used.

There have also been studies done on the productivity side of things. The Take-a-Stand Project discovered that employees who used standing desksexperienced an increase in their mood and general productivity - an effect that was negated when the desks were then removed.

“By too much sitting still, the body becomes unhealthy, and soon the mind. This is nature’s law.” - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There really is only one way to see the benefits of a standing desk, and that is to try one out yourself.

Used correctly, a standing desk can give you a whole new lease on life, and help reverse the many effects of today’s modern, sedentary lifestyle.

Use it incorrectly, and you may find yourself facing just as many issues as before you had one.

If you are going to take the plunge and get yourself a standing desk, the most important thing is to make sure you use it correctly.

Splitting your time between sitting and standing, and keeping active when away from your desk, should ensure that you reap the benefits that a standing desk has to offer.

Katherine Harris

Katherine Harris

Katherine is one of the Directors of VARIDESK New Zealand. She has a passion for health and wellness in the workplace and helping others to enjoy the benefits of a standing desk.

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