How Long Should You Stand at a Standing Desk

Update:10 May 2021

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.

Are you supposed to stand the entire day to maximize the benefits? Should you spilt up standing vs sitting by a percentage of time? Or is better to only stand at your desk for short periods of time, and sit for the majority of the time?

These are common questions that each have unique circumstances that we will discuss here to help you decide how long should you stand at your standing desk.

How long should you sit at your desk?

Most people sit at their desk all day at home or in the classroom. A typical day of sitting could range up to 7 to 8 hours. This doesn’t include the additional hours people will sit when they get home.

Research has linked sitting at your desk for 8 hours a day throughout years of work to many unhealthy conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting too much leads to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, obesity and abnormal cholesterol levels. These are just a few of the unhealthy results of sitting for too long.

In general, it is recommended that you don’t sit for more than one hour at a time. After an hour, you should take a break from standing or go for a short walk. In total, you don’t want to sit for longer than 6-8 hours per day, and the less you sit the better.

How long should you stand at a standing desk?

This gets us to our original question, how long should you stand at your standing desk? The common industry advice is that you should stand for 60% percent of the time, and sit for 40%.

Additionally, you want to incorporate occasional breaks of switching from sitting to standing. For instance, if you want to follow a 1/3 to 2/3 rule, you could sit for 20 minutes and stand for 40. Every person will be different and you will certainly want to do what is best for you.

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.

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