How Long Should You Stand at a Standing Desk?


young bearded man working at his standing desk at his office

There is plenty of evidence for the benefits of standing compared to sitting at an office desk. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

So how long should you actually stand at a standing desk for? In this article we look at the research behind the risks of sitting for too long and provide some standing desk best practices to help you decide how long you should be sitting and standing for each day.

Is it Better to Sit or Stand at Work?

Dubbed “the new smoking”, sitting for too long increases your risk of developing chronic health problems. Sitting and lying down too much can cause high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Many full time workers spend eight hours sitting at their desk then drive home to sit on the couch all evening before retiring to bed to lie down for another eight hours. It all adds up to a sedentary lifestyle and health problems.

An analysis of 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels found that people who sit at work for eight hours a day had a risk of dying similar to the risks of smoking and obesity. The data from 1 million people in the studies found you would need to do between 60 and 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity to counter the effects of too much sitting  

In attempt to combat this, many workplaces have introduced standing desks so workers don’t spend their entire work day seated in an office chair. Standing to work increases the number of calories burnt which may lead to weight loss and increased energy. There is also evidence that standing desks reduces stress levels, improve mood and even increase productivity.

Risks of Standing For Too Long

Is it ok to stand all day? The evidence says, no standing all day is not ok and has its own health risks.

Despite the proven benefits of standing desks, it seems you can also stand for too long. Ask anyone who is on their feet all day for work and most will tell you it isn’t easy. Too much standing can cause lower back pain and problems with leg muscles, tendons and varicose veins.

In 2017, Ergonomics journal published a study which found that standing for long periods causes discomfort and can even reduce reaction times. The small sample of participants reported mental state deterioration after two hours of standing. However, standing seemed to help with creative problem solving. Physically, participants reported muscle fatigue and leg swelling.

If you find it tiring or painful to stand, an anti-fatigue mat can help. The mat encourages you to make regular small leg movements to improve blood flow and reduce discomfort. Some mats are designed for muscle stimulation while others are soft for comfort. Whichever type of mat you choose, its lightweight material makes it easy to move in and out of place multiple times per day.   A good anti fatigue can will keep you moving around naturally and give you options to place your feet in different positions, helping you to burn more calories and shift around to find comfortable positions.

Take a Seat Regularly

For office staff who have the choice of standing or sitting to work, they should do both. The optimal situation is to alternate between sitting and standing throughout a work day. Research shows the ideal ratio is to spend one hour standing for every one to two hours of sitting.  

A height adjustable sit stand desk lets you do just that. Most quality sit stand desks have electric controls or gas lifts to make it possible for workers to adjust the height of their desk multiple times each day. High performance gas lifts and push button electronics move the desk to the right height quickly and easily. Within seconds, the desk height is changed, an anti-fatigue mat or chair rolled into place and the worker is ready to get started on their task.    

So, like most things, moderation is key. Don’t spend the entire day sitting or standing but switch it up regularly and remember to take short breaks to walk around.

To learn more about standing desks, see our Standing Desk Buyers Guide, visit the Ergolink showroom, call us on (08) 9240 7066 or contact us online for personalised advice.