How Long Should You Stand at a Standing Desk?

Standing desks are becoming increasingly popular, sweeping work and home offices and changing work experience for thousands. While there certainly seem to be some clear benefits in using a standing desk, it is less clear to many people exactly how long you should stand at a standing desk.

You should stand at a standing desk for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. You should spend approximately an hour standing for every hour to two hours that you spend sitting. While this may seem like a lot of standing and sitting, it appears to be the best balance to take advantage of the health benefits of both standing and sitting.

If you're wondering how on Earth you're going to work that much standing and sitting into your work day, here are some things to consider...

Neither Standing or Sitting for Too Long is Good for You

Many people are aware of research pointing to the problems with sitting for long periods, but fewer people are aware that there is a lot of research pointing to the problems with standing for long periods as well. 

After all, many people have stood for long periods for their occupation well before standing desks became popular. Workers like production line employees and bank tellers have some specific problems related to standing for long periods. Long periods of standing while working often leads to pain in the lower back and legs, among other issues.

Alternating Sitting and Standing Appears to be Good for You

A statistically significant number of office workers found that they were more comfortable when they use sit-stand workstations in the office environment, alternating sitting and standing. As an added benefit, some also found that they were more productive. 

While it may not be definitely clear that these stations make people more productive, they certainly do not decrease productivity, and they seemed to improve people's comfort while working. 

How to Incorporate a Standing Desk Into Your Life

When you consider the benefits of alternating standing and sitting, it seems clear that it is well worth having a standing desk. The standing desk that you choose should make it as easy as possible for you to alternate between standing and sitting throughout the day. 

If you have sufficient space, you can choose to have separate desks for standing and sitting, but most people find it very inconvenient to have to switch between computer monitors and equipment. Therefore, a rising standing desk is what most people choose for their home or work office. Here are considerations in choosing the right standing desk:

Full Desk or Riser

There are two options in desks that go from standing to sitting heights: Full standing desks raise up and down an entire work surface, whereas riser sit on top of an existing surface. 

Both are very good options depending on your needs. Risers tend to be a bit more flexible since they can be taken off the desk and set aside if they aren't needed, so many people choose them over a full desk. However, if you have a lot of equipment and multiple monitors, you may choose a full standing desk.

Comfortable Both Standing and Sitting

Standing desks must be able to go high enough to accommodate your height and allow your shoulders to align correctly and low enough that you can sit comfortably with your legs and arms positioned at ergonomically correct angles.

Good vs Bad Desk Sitting Posture

Full standing desks sometimes struggle to go high enough, so check the maximum height and make sure it's tall enough for you. By contrast, risers may not push flat enough to the desktop surface for you to be comfortable, especially if your desktop surface is thick. Make sure you check the table clearance height for risers.

Easy Motion

If you have to struggle to raise or lower your desk, or even worse, if the desk feels wobbly or unsteady when you are raising or lowering it, you may find that you do not transition between standing and sitting as often as you should. 

Therefore, you need a standing desk that has a very effortless, pneumatic motion, ideally that can be operated with only one hand. Standing desks with dual motors tend to have a more fluid motion and these motors last longer, but you'll pay a bit more for a desk with dual motors.

Preset Heights

This may seem like a little thing until you get a standing desk and try to adjust every half hour or hour as suggested. Raising and lowering the desk to exactly the height that you need it to be at every time will add a few seconds to each adjustment and make you have to think about it, which can discourage you from changing heights at all. 

Very high quality standing desks, both full desks and risers, often have preset heights, typically three different heights, so you can adjust the desk to exactly the level that is right for your sitting or standing activity.

Weight Accommodation

If you are considering two desks that seem similar but one costs considerably more, check the weight accommodation. Some standing desks can only hold around 50 lbs, while others can hold as much as 200 pounds or even more. 

Make sure that you take into account both the weight of your equipment and any tendency you may have to lean on the standing desk. The last thing that you want is to feel like your standing desk is wobbly. Without sufficient weight accommodation, you may be tempted to keep some of your equipment on a different surface, which will likely make your experience less ergonomic when you are standing, which may cause you to sit more than you should. 

Surface Space

Some standing desks are only big enough for a small laptop, while others create entire rising workstations. The larger the standing desk, the more expensive it is likely to be, but you don't want to make compromises in surface space when you are choosing a standing desk. 

If you don't feel like you have sufficient room for your elbows to reach the keyboard and mouse, you will be unlikely to see ergonomic benefits to using a standing desk. If you're using more than one monitor, it's even more important to have enough room to position them at an angle that is convenient for you. Make sure that the desk you choose has enough space for your needs now and any more equipment you may want in the future.

How to Use the Desk Appropriately

Having a standing desk is one thing, using it the way you should by alternating sitting and standing throughout the day is another thing altogether. Choosing a high-quality desk that makes it easy for you to alternate between sitting and standing is the first step, but you may still find the hours easily go by without you noticing that you've only been sitting or standing. 

You may find it jarring to set an alarm for sitting and standing throughout your work day, but you may find that you struggle to keep on schedule if you do not time sitting and standing in some way.

Here are some suggestions to help you use your standing desk the way you should:

Use a Fun, Quiet Timer

Instead of setting a jarring alarm on your phone or computer, use a playful sand-drip style timer or some other fun timing device to calculate approximately half an hour or an hour. It won't pull you out of your work, but you are likely to notice it when you find yourself stretching and adjusting.

Take a Walk When You Transition

Walking around for only 5 minutes during every hour can make big differences in your mood, focus, and even take the edge off the afternoon munchies.You are likely to find a brief walk to be innately rewarding when you take one every hour or so during your work day. 

Taking a walk as you transition from standing to sitting or sitting to standing is a great way to clear your mind, correct your posture, and get ready to transition into the next hour of work.

Check Your Posture

Whether you're standing or sitting at your desk, it is very important to be constantly aware of your posture. You can hunch over your computer screen whether you are sitting or standing. 

Hunching over can add a lot of strain to your neck and shoulders, which lead to headaches and pain later in the day. Consciously check your posture continuously, not just when you change positions. Changing positions can be very helpful in reminding you to check your posture, but you shouldn't be allowing yourself to slouch towards the end of every hour.

Read More >> Top Best Standing Desk Exercises

Enjoy Using Your Standing Desk Correctly

Alternating between standing and sitting can have important benefits for your health and comfort throughout your work day. Alternating every half hour or every hour is the best way to ensure that you are making the most of your standing desk. To make sure that you follow the healthiest schedule, choose a high-quality desk and keep track of your sitting and standing time. 

Related Guides

Looking to learn more about standing desks? Check out some of our other informative and in-depth reviews and guides!

Interested in learning about the best kneeling chairs for gaming? In this product review guide,

Read More »
best office chairs for sciatica

Sciatica can be extremely painful. In addition, some office chairs can make the problem worse

Read More »
shoes at a standing desk

If you have a standing desk, you probably don’t want to wear those uncomfortable high

Read More »
best standing desks for teachers

Teachers shouldn’t have to struggle with the constant ups and downs of using a desk

Read More »
best rocking office chairs

Most of us have to work. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to

Read More »
standing desk vs ergonomic chair

Few things are going to handicap your productivity at work as much as the wrong

Read More »
Darryl Higgins

Darryl Higgins

Hi, I'm Darryl. I made this site to help share information & reviews about ergonomic desks, chairs & accessories to help others who want to work more comfortably. Learn more about my journey by reading my bio here. Enjoy!

Leave a Comment

Darryl Higgins

Darryl Higgins

Hi, I'm Darryl. I made this site to help share information & reviews about ergonomic desks, chairs & accessories to help others who want to work more comfortably. Learn more about my journey by reading my bio here. Enjoy!

About Athlete Desk

Learn about standing desks, bicycle desks, treadmill desks, ergonomic chairs & accessories.

Recently Published Guides