Standing Desk Buyer’s Guide: Benefits, Features, and More

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Stand Up Desk Store Crank Adjustable Stand Up Desk

Have you noticed that every new generation appears to get a bit bigger with more health problems? Stores are full of low fat, low sugar and added vitamin options. However, people today are more lethargic and suffer more from obesity than ever before. With the right kind of desk, you can help yourself avoid these pitfalls and this standing desk buyer’s guide is just what you need.

This guide will help to explain this modern mystery. Anybody who works in an office environment where they must sit for long periods of time can see many benefits from the use of a standing desk.

What Are the Benefits of a Standing Desk?

Standing Desk Buyer's Guide

In recent years, medical research on people’s health by their lifestyle choices has uncovered quite a bit. The most startling discovery is that excessive periods of time sitting at work is a significant health risk.

The human body was never designed to sit for long periods of time. The increased health risks associated with long periods of sitting don’t seem to matter much even if you participate in physical exercise outside of the time you are sitting. Standing and movement reduce the risks to your health so time spent standing at work provides health benefits.

These include:

  • significant improvements in upper back and neck pain
  • improved comfort and energy levels
  • improved focus and productivity levels
  • decrease stress levels

This is not just some fad or crackpot notion developed by a handful of fringe scientists. Many of these research studies are conducted by highly reputed medical institutions or government organizations.

Workers who sit all day at work will frequently sit for another one or two hours at home watching television, checking out social media sites on their computer, reading or playing video games. This leads to an average thirteen hours per day sitting, followed by eight hours of sleep. That’s an average of twenty-one sedentary hours each day.

The Hazards of Sitting

A 2008 study funded by the American Heart Association recommended that: “It is time to consider excessive sitting a serious health hazard, with the potential for ultimately giving consideration to the inclusion of too much sitting (or too few breaks from sitting) in physical activity and health guidelines.”

Health risks of excessive sitting include an increased chance of:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • type 2 diabetes
  • metabolic syndrome
  • obesity
  • back and neck pain

Office Chair Back Pain

Using a standing desk is an ideal way of avoiding the risks associated with occupational sitting while gaining the health benefits associated with standing. Office workers who have used adjustable desks have reported that the constant change between standing and sitting encourages them to complete tasks within the twenty to the forty-minute period between shifts. Using a standing desk also helps to improve focus. We’ll go over just a few of the health risks you can avoid in this standing desk buyer’s guide.

Cardiovascular Disease

In a report prepared by the Center for Disease Control for the President and Congress of the United States, it was reported that heart disease is the most common cause of death in America.

There is a strong link between cardiovascular disease and a sedentary lifestyle. A classic study published by a well reputed British medical journal in 1953 compared the rates of coronary heart disease of drivers and conductors on London buses, where the drivers sat for long periods of time while their colleagues walked and stood for the same length of time. The researchers found a clear correlation between the more sedentary occupation and increased rates of heart disease.

Cancer

The Center for Disease Control publication reports that cancer is the second most common cause of death in America. There is an extremely well researched and documented link between a sedentary lifestyle and cancer.

A long-term research project conducted by the American Cancer Society and published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention in 2015 demonstrated that excessive sitting increases the risk of cancer for women. Over 77,000 cancer-free women were observed for an average sixteen years and then their sitting time compared to the development of cancer. The study suggests that prolonged sitting leads to a 65% increased risk of multiple myeloma, a 43% increased risk of ovarian cancer, and a 10% increased risk of breast cancer. This increased risk was demonstrated to be independent of physical activity, including exercise.

Diabetes

Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association has repeatedly warned the public that there is an established link between the risk of health complications and excessive sitting. They recommend that periods of sitting should be broken up at least once every thirty minutes with three or more minutes light exercise. In fact, they even organize a National Get Fit Don’t Sit Day on the first Wednesday of May every year.

Obesity

A 2014 academic paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Association discovered than one-third of American adults and one-sixth of children are clinically obese. There is an established link between long periods of sitting and a risk of obesity which is independent of how much physical exercise a person engages in.

A study that appeared the same year in the medical journal, Diabetologia, examined the duration of vigorous and moderate exercise and sitting time of 3,670 men and women over a two-year period from 1997 to 1999 and then returned to assess their health after five years and then again after ten years. They discovered that both low levels of sitting time and regular exercise were needed to significantly reduce the risk of obesity.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health issues that frequently occur together: high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol levels, and excessive body fat on the waistline. This condition increases the risk of strokes, diabetes, and heart disease. The desk features that we feature in this standing desk buyer’s guide tend to help with many of the risk factors that lead to metabolic syndrome.

There is evidence of a strong correlation between metabolic syndrome and long periods of sitting. A 2016 study of adults in South Korea found that a sedentary occupation combined with excessive sitting outside of work led to a 1.21 fold higher risk of contracting metabolic syndrome.

A 2015 study of older adults in America examined a group of 1,198 adults and discovered a strong relationship between sedentary time and a higher risk of metabolic syndrome. This study, while not a very large study with regards to scope, resulted in a clear link between sitting or laying down for long periods regularly and developing this syndrome.

Back & Neck Pain

Neck and Back Pain

Sitting for long periods can cause neck and back pain, especially when combined with bad posture or whole-body vibration (such as a helicopter pilot or bus driver might feel). Most people reading this standing desk buyer’s guide are looking for a desk like this because of back and neck pain.

Avoid the Dangers of Sitting and Improve Your Posture at the Same Time

Studies have shown that most health risks are associated with bad posture, for example, Association Between Sitting and Occupational Lower Back Pain published in the European Spine Journal in 2007. If you are required to sit much of the day due to your working environment, it may lead to Low Back Pain or LBP.

By incorporating a standing desk, like one with the features described in this standing desk buyer’s guide, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing LBP that will lead to other health problems later on.

These risks may be lowered by following proper seating guidelines issued by relevant health professionals and medical bodies.

Proper Sitting Posture

For example, the British National Health Service recommends that when you are seated at work:

  • adjust your chair back so that your lower spine is adequately supported. With your knees slightly lower than your hips
  • adjust your chair height so your forearms and wrists are horizontal when using a keyboard, elbows beside your body, your arm forming an L shape
  • your feet should rest on a footrest or the floor (this is one of the most important factors that we cannot stress enough in this standing desk buyer’s guide – don’t let your feet hang or rest out in front of you)
  • crossing legs may contribute to posture-related conditions
  • your screen should remain at eye level with the assistance of a monitor stand if necessary as bending your neck can lead to problems
  • take regular breaks to change your posture — frequent short breaks are better than fewer long ones

Obviously, if you use a standing desk then you will avoid the risks of neck and back pain associated with sitting for long periods of time.

How Do You Use a Standing Desk?

Sit Stand Desk ErgonomicsThe best way to use a standing desk is to alternate frequently between sitting and standing while at work. Research studies have proven that both sitting and standing for long periods of time can have adverse effects on health. Cornell University recommends that you should alternate between twenty minutes of sitting with good posture, eight minutes standing, and two minutes of moving, eg. walking or gentle stretching.

The major health benefits come from moving around rather than remaining sedentary. The ultimate way to achieve this is by using a standing desk in combination with a treadmill. Some standing desks are actually meant to be used on a treadmill while working. A standing desk buyer’s guide like this can give you more details on the right standing desk for you.

Whether you are standing or sitting, it is important to ensure that your monitor is at eye height and your keyboard in a position where it is in an ergonomic position. This will help to prevent neck and back pain and encourage correct posture. Leave a small gap between your keyboard and the edge of your desk sufficient to allow you to rest your wrists between bouts of typing.

A Standing Desk Buyer’s Guide – What to Look For

No matter which type of standing desk you decide to go with, there is a wide range of makes and models to choose from as well. However, not every make and model will suit every user. It is important to choose a design that is perfect for your needs and which offers you the best health benefits.

Weight Capacity

Every standing desk has a maximum weight capacity. With electric standing desks, this is often determined by the power of the motor that does the adjusting. If you intend to keep a lot of heavy items on your desk, it would be a good idea to weigh the items on your desk right now and then ensure that any desk you consider purchasing can hold significantly more than that weight.

Height and Adjustability

Height and AdjustabilityConsider the maximum and minimum height of the table and of the person who is going to use it. If the user is unusually tall or unusually short, some desks will not be viable for them to use. The standard range is around twenty-one to fifty-six inches high. Remember that the user should be able to stand at the desk with their monitor at eye height but their forearms and wrists horizontal while they use the keyboard to minimize back pain and promote correct posture. Correct posture is one of the many reasons why you may be reading this standing desk buyer’s guide.

Assembly

Note that many standing desks do not come assembled. For the sake of your sanity, please read the assembly plans carefully and ensure that you have all the tools you require and that all the parts are present before you begin to put together your desk.

After you have read this standing desk buyer’s guide, it would be a good idea to research the market as thoroughly as possible to ensure that you know what all the benefits and drawbacks of each make and model of the standing desk are. Read as many reviews as you can find. Take special note of issues related to stability after standing desks have been in use for some time.

Types of Adjustable Desks: Pros and Cons

The best standing desks will allow easy adjustment between standing and sitting and also to obtain the ideal height, ergonomically speaking, for your keyboard and monitor. Sometimes this adjustment will be manual. However, many of the higher end models are equipped with an electric motor so that they may be adjusted at the press of a button.

Manually adjusting standing desks require you to perform some action to lift and lower the desk, such as turning a hand crank. While this might not be a particularly strenuous or time-consuming process, it is not as easy or as swift as pressing a button.

Flexispot Standing DeskElectric standing desks use motors hidden inside the desk base and are designed to be as quiet as possible. However, they do make some noise when operating, which can distract other workers. Typically, they are louder than a whisper but quieter than a normal level conversation. Electric standing desks must be positioned close to a power source. A low powered motor limits the weight capacity of your standing desk. Be sure to have a standing desk that can handle the weight of the items on your desk.

Hydraulic adjustable standing desks use a combination of a counterbalance mechanism and a hydraulic gas cylinder, which makes them super easy to lift by hand, usually by the means of a lever that lowers or raises the desk. These do not need to be positioned next to a power source, are easier to adjust than fully manual adjustable standing desks, but are much quieter than electrically adjustable standing desks.

Standing Desk Accessories

Some standing desks come with built-in accessories, such as a wire or keyboard tray. More upmarket models may have fancy features, like tabletop surfaces made to be especially responsive to your mouse or even built-in speakers. This guide is the perfect way to tell you about the features that you may want to look for in your first (or next) standing desk.

Extended Height Chair

This standing desk buyer’s guide is meant to tell you about desks. However, you will probably also need a chair for when you will be sitting at the desk, which you will be doing at some point – you can’t be expected to stand all the time.  Going back and forth between sitting and standing throughout the day is best for your back and posture.

If your standing desk is not adjustable, but you want to sit, there is an option for you to use an extended height chair. These standing desk chairs were originally designed for people working on drawing boards when architects and engineers worked on near vertical sloping tables, sometimes called drafting tables. Such chairs offer a backrest and footrest which allow you to adopt a normal sitting position with your feet supported even when you are sitting much higher than you would in a normal chair. While these aren’t a traditional standing desk, we still want to cover them in this standing desk buyer’s guide as they are an option for sitting at a standing desk without having to adjust it.

When choosing an appropriate standing desk chair:

  • ensure it has an adjustable backrest so you can obtain adequate support for your lower back
  • the seat must offer a backward and forward tilt, allowing a variety of sitting postures
  • ensure the chair can be raised high enough that your elbows can be positioned above the work surface level when seated
  • a model offering a footrest is preferable

Standing Desk Mat

Varidesk Standing Desk Mat

When you are standing behind your standing desk, placing your feet on a standing desk mat (anti-fatigue mat) can help to keep you comfy.

These come in two basic styles: flat or contoured. The contoured encourage movement so that when you’re standing behind your standing desk, you can adopt many slightly different standing postures rather than just one.

As has been mentioned so many times in this standing desk buyer’s guide, movement promotes better health. Good quality standing desk mats must be durable, resist spills and stains, and be easy to wipe clean.

Standing Desk Alternatives

It may be that you decide not to invest in a standing desk. If you are standing on the fence, trying to decide whether to buy a standing desk or not, then you might like to consider one of the options detailed below.

DIY Standing Desks

Creating your own standing desk is much simpler than it sounds. If you already have a traditional desk but want to experience the benefits of a standing desk, find a small, low table and place it on top of your old desk. Ensure that the top of the small table is wide enough and stable enough for your computer monitor. Ideally, the monitor should then be at eye height when you’re standing.

You need to leave sufficient room for your keyboard on the old desk in front of the small table, and you may need to adjust the height of the keyboard so that when typing your forearms and wrists are level with the floor. This may be done with a stack of over-sized books or some flat pieces of wood.

A DIY standing desk will be easily converted back to a traditional sitting desk simply by removing the small table and keyboard platform. A stool or a chair may be an alternative to a small table if they are wide enough and sufficiently stable to hold your monitor. If your old desk is a valuable antique, don’t forget to protect its surface from the chair or table legs using coasters or a protective mat. Are you ready to try creating a DIY standing desk to see if it’s right for you?

This arrangement may not be aesthetically pleasing, but you can always use a tablecloth or a large piece of fabric to cover the small table and desk to mask your DIY creation. If over time you find that you prefer using a standing desk, then you may consider purchasing a purpose made the standing desk. The advantage of a purpose made standing desk is that it is more visually attractive and probably much more stable than your own creation. Also, it will be much easier to adjust.

If you are a talented carpenter, then you may decide that you can create your own purpose-built standing desk. If you do this, make sure that your creation is capable of easily adjusting to sitting and standing rapidly. 

Standing Desk Converters

Vivo Standing Desk ConverterStanding desk converters (also known as risers) are an affordable way to try out standing desks on a tight budget. Essentially, risers work in the same way as placing a small table on top of your old desk, but they are purpose-built for the task. They will be more stable and aesthetically pleasing than a small table or stool atop your old desk.

One problem with using some risers is that if you wish to alternate between sitting and standing (as is recommended by health professionals to maximize the benefits of standing at work) then you must manually move your monitor and keyboard each time you change from sitting to standing. The trouble of doing this may quickly lead to you sitting all the time rather than going through the process of moving all your equipment each time you want to change.

There are risers available that can lift and drop your monitor and keyboard, and these may be more convenient for you to use than a fixed riser. Risers are often easier to set up than a purpose-built standing desk. Many of these risers come already assembled and ready to use. Risers are a great option which is why they are being recommended as just one of the ways you can see benefits from standing while at work, and are being covered here.

Several manufacturers produce a folding variety of standing desk that may be transported around with you. These are great if your job requires you to work in multiple locations. These are lightweight and easily adjustable. They are a viable option when you are seeking a standing desk to buy. They usually operate in the same way as a regular riser.

Conclusion

Because most office workers today are sitting themselves to death, it is in your best interest to investigate the many health benefits that come from using a good quality standing desk.

We hope you have gained enough helpful information through reading this standing desk buyer’s guide that you can use when purchasing your own.