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How Long Should You Stand at a Standing Desk

How Long Should You Stand at a Standing Desk: Everything You Need to Know

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Too much sitting can cause health problems, fortunately, using a standing desk reduces health risks and increases productivity levels. But how long should you stand at a standing desk? Although the answer differs according to whom you ask, experts agree that you shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes. In this article, we’ll help you find the right balance between sitting and standing to get the full benefits of both.

Benefits of Using a Standing Desk

Standing can help you reverse or reduce the health risks of prolonged sitting.

Below are a few benefits you can experience when you get your new standing desk:

1. Reduced Sedentary Time

Full-time office workers typically spend eight hours sitting at their desks.

If they’re not in the habit of exercising, they’ll probably crash on the couch until it’s time to go to bed.

All this makes for a sedentary lifestyle that can negatively affect your health.

A sit-stand desk can reduce sedentary time by giving you some standing time during working hours.

2. Improved Posture and Ergonomics

You’ve probably experienced your whole body hurting while working in your office chair all day.

That’s because you’re forcing your body into an unnatural position for too long.

But you’re decompressing your spine when you stand at a standing desk. On top of that, if you follow good standing desk ergonomics, you’re keeping your body in a neutral position.

This lets you improve your posture, leading to less body pain.

3. Increased Energy and Productivity

Have you noticed that the longer you sit in your office chair, the more you can’t think straight?

That’s because your brain function declines the more time you spend sitting, leading to decreased productivity.

You might also notice you feel more tired the longer you stay seated. That’s because blood isn’t circulating properly.

That means oxygen and other nutrients aren’t reaching your other body parts well.

Standing can increase both your energy and productivity levels.

Using a stand-up desk improves blood flow, so oxygen and nutrients can reach your brain and other body parts. This results in better brain function and energy.

4. Potential Health Benefits

Aside from improved posture, sit-stand desks offer many other potential health benefits.

For one, you can avoid metabolic syndrome. By standing, you can burn more calories and activate the body’s blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol.

The excess fat that could have accumulated in your brain, heart, and liver can be used.

As such, you can avoid the following health problems:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Some types of cancer
  • Obesity

Risks of Prolonged Standing

Too much standing also presents its own health risks. Below are some you should be aware of:

1. Discomfort and Fatigue

Static standing causes insufficient blood circulation, which can eventually cause discomfort and fatigue.

You’ll also find that you may experience reduced brain function and reaction times.

2. Musculoskeletal Problems

Standing too long can cause musculoskeletal problems in the legs, back, and neck. The muscles in those parts are what you use to stay in an upright position.

Extending and lengthening your hip flexors can be strenuous over time. The function of your calf muscles also diminishes, resulting in more muscle fatigue.

Your lower back will also get tired, which can cause spasms. You may also experience stiffness in the neck and shoulders.

3. Varicose Veins and Circulatory Issues

If you spend too much time standing, you’re changing the distribution of blood in your extremities.

Blood pools in your legs and feet, putting too much pressure on the veins. That’s because the heart has difficulty pumping that blood back up to the top of your body.

This will eventually cause varicose veins. You’ll also experience increased oxidative stress and less blood flow to the brain.

Prolonged standing can increase your risk of heart disease too.

How Long Should You Stand at a Standing Desk?

Standing desks have proven benefits. However, finding the right balance between standing and sitting is important to experience those benefits.

So how long should you stand at a standing desk?

1. Expert Recommendations and Research Findings

There are currently many studies regarding sitting and standing. Some involve comparing standing desks with regular desks to help emphasize how a standing desk makes your work day more productive.

Research is still ongoing regarding how often you should alternate standing and sitting. However, many ergonomic experts agree that standing 5 to 15 minutes out of every hour is a good baseline.

2. Ideal Standing-to-Sitting Ratios

If you want to address back pain with standing desks, you must follow an ideal sitting-to-standing ratio.

A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends standing and moving around for at least two hours within eight hours of sitting.

Another suggestion is the 3:1 ratio. Here, you spend a total of one hour standing for every 3 hours spent sitting.

Or, stand for one hour for every one to two hours of sitting.

Perhaps the simplest recommendation is alternating between sitting and standing every 30 minutes.

This means you spend four hours sitting and standing each during your eight hours of work.

3. Personal Factors and Adjustments

There is no exact right ratio regarding sitting and standing. The most important part of switching positions is to listen to your body.

If you feel tired or discomfort creeping up on you even though you haven’t reached the “recommended time” yet, it’s best to change.

Guidelines for a Healthy Standing Desk Routine

To ensure maximum comfort and energy levels, you should know how to use a standing desk correctly.

For instance, you can try incorporating standing desk exercises to help keep your heart pumping the entire day.

Below are other tips you can follow to help you sit and stand comfortably at your standing desk:

1. Introduce the 20-8-2 Rule

The 20-8-2 rule is a working pattern designed to help beat a sedentary lifestyle.

For every 20 minutes you spend sitting, stand for 8 minutes, and move around for at least 2 minutes.

This ensures you won’t just alternate between sitting and static standing, which can still cause leg discomfort. Instead, moving around lets you work your leg muscles to improve circulation.

You can incorporate activities as you work as well. For instance, you can take phone calls while walking around rather than just staying seated.

2. Set a Timer or Use Apps to Schedule Breaks

If you’d like to follow a certain schedule, use timers or apps to remind you to take breaks.

However, we suggest using a quiet or fun timer so it’s not jarring for you and others.

You can use the timer to schedule a stretching break or to signal that it’s time to switch positions.

3. Adjust Desk and Monitor to Ideal Heights

Standing desks won’t do you good if you use them with bad posture.

A height-adjustable desk might be better than a fixed-height standing desk since you can adjust the desk height to suit your needs.

The top of your monitor should be at eye level. It should also be tilted upwards around 10 to 20 degrees so you won’t have to move your head to see the whole computer screen. Having the screen around 20 to 28 inches from your face is also ideal.

The correct height for your desk should let your elbows bend at 90 degrees. Keep your wrists straight when typing or using the mouse.

If you’re using a laptop, prioritize fixing monitor height to minimize neck pain. However, this might mean that your wrist position will suffer.

As such, you can consider getting a USB keyboard to maintain good posture.

Keep your back, neck, and shoulders straight but relaxed.

4. Use Anti-fatigue Mats and Proper Footwear

Even if you’re not in poor posture and you’re listening to your body to switch positions, you might experience feeling fatigued faster than you expected while standing.

As such, you can use anti-fatigue mats for a comfortable experience during your standing time.

An anti-fatigue mat can ease the tension in your leg muscles and backbone. Some kinds are also contoured to encourage small movements to improve circulation.

As for footwear, slip-resistant soles or shoes with a wider base can keep you comfortable and stable while standing.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have more questions related to how long you should stand at a standing desk, we’ve answered some of them below:

How Can I Properly Set Up My Standing Desk?

Your desk should be at elbow height so you can bend your elbows at 90 degrees.

When measuring your desk height, use the mat and footwear you’ll also use when standing at the desk.

How Often Should I Take Breaks From Standing?

This is highly personal and will depend on your body.

But, generally, standing for more than 30 minutes at a time is not recommended — even with an anti-fatigue mat.

Can Standing Desks Cause Pain or Discomfort?

If used incorrectly, yes, standing desks can cause pain or discomfort.

That’s because standing for long hours can result in the same risks as too much sitting. These include cardiovascular disease, discomfort, and fatigue.

What Is the 20-8-2 Rule in Relation to Standing Desks?

This rule tells you to sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes, and move around for at least 2 minutes.

Doing so ensures you’re not just switching between sitting and static standing. Instead, moving around also encourages enough circulation in your workstation.

How Can I Ensure a Gradual Transition to Using a Standing Desk?

Remember that you shouldn’t shock your body into suddenly standing for long periods. Instead, have a progression schedule, such as the one below:

  • Week 1 – stand for 5 minutes every 30 minutes
  • Week 2 – stand for 5 minutes every 25 minutes
  • Week 3 – stand for 5 minutes every 20 minutes
  • Week 4 – stand for 10 minutes every 30 minutes
  • Week 5 – stand for 10 minutes every 20 minutes
  • Week 6 – stand for 15 minutes every 30 minutes


Standing desks have become a solution to encourage people to stand while working. However, standing for too long is just as bad as sitting for hours at a time.

As such, you should strike a good balance between standing and sitting.

You can follow expert recommendations for a start. For instance, the 20-8-2 rule ensures you get some activity every 30 minutes.

However, it’s more important to customize your standing desk routine by listening to your body.