Updated on March 28, 2016
9 to 5’s Guide to Proper Standing Desk Posture
If you’re like most 9 to 5’ers, you probably spend a great deal of your time at a desk, hunched over your computer. That’s fine if it’s done in moderation, but there’s an increasing body of evidence that shows working at a desk for extended periods of time is not just bad for your health, but can actually kill you:
So, we know that sitting at a desk for extended periods of time can:
- Give you a heart attack
- Cause cancer
- Shorten your life expectancy
- Make you fat
- Dramatically decrease your right-swipes on Tinder
Ok, that last one isn’t entirely scientific, but you get the point…
Given all that, it’s no wonder that some folks have taken to standing desks as an antidote. Personally, I made the switch to a sit-stand desk a couple years ago, and it has changed the way I feel at the end of the day dramatically.
That said, the standing desk isn’t for everyone. I try to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll check out the beanbag, take a break, head to the kitchen for some snacks, work at the high table, work at the low table and generally switch things up whenever I start to feel tired or anxious. I also try not to overdo it at the standing desk. Particularly at first, you want to give your muscles and joints time to get used to standing for longer periods of time.
This is Mary. Notice that when she uses her standing desk, she stands up straight, with her feet, back, arms and head in a neutral position. When you are standing, try to maintain good posture and avoid putting excessive pressure on your joints, particularly your feet and lower back. Here are some tips to maintain proper posture when standing at work so that your standing desk doesn’t end up doing more harm than good.
How to position your…
Just as when sitting, it is best to position your feet in a neutral position, roughly shoulder width apart, with your feel flat on the group.
When standing, there is also a natural inclination towards leaning on one leg or another. I often shift my weight from leg to leg. Doing so is fine, and actually a good thing in that it encourages you to stay mobile and vary your posture. However, it can also have a negative effect in that it puts your pelvis in a non-neutral position. You can overcome this by resting your non weight-bearing leg on a footrest, thereby putting your pelvis in a neutral position.
Another difference between sitting and standing is that it places your full weight on your feet. Doing so can put you at risk for developing planar fasciitis and other nasty foot problems (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/plantar-fasciitis-topic-overview). One way to alleviate foot pain and strain is to use an anti-fatigue mat. I recommend the GelPro line of anti-fatigue mats.
The key here is to maintain a natural back curvature. That means you want to avoid either an unnaturally flat back or a hyperextended back. Most people new to standing for extended periods of time will fall into the latter category, as it is a pattern that is, unfortunately, reinforced by spending long periods of time in front of a computer. I’ve written extensively on anterior pelvic tilt and some approaches you can use to correct muscle imbalances through weight training. For now, the key is to focus on standing up straight and tall, and to avoid standing for long periods of time until you build up sufficient core strength to do so properly.
If you stand up straight, your head position will likely be correct as well. There is a natural tendency to want to lean in towards the monitor, particularly if your eyesight is not quite 20/20. In that case, step 1 is to make sure that you have your eyes checked and get a good set of prescription glasses.
As when sitting, the top of the monitor should be roughly at eye level. However, because the positioning of your torso is different when standing, you will likely need to elevate your monitor as well when compared to your sitting position. I typically just throw a couple reams of paper under my monitor stand, but you might also consider investing in a swivel monitor stand.
Your arms should form a right angle with your torso. It is ok to lightly rest your wrists on your keyboard or mouse pad when you are not moving. However, when mousing, it is important to avoid resting your wrist and to mouse with the whole arm. Another approach is to use a large enough mouse such that you can rest your wrist on the mouse itself. The idea is to minimize the angle of travel of any particular joint in order to decrease the likelihood of developing tendinitis or an RSI injury.
What Should I Do if This is Uncomfortable?
When it comes to using a standing desk, it will undoubtedly take some time to adjust. The key is to start slowly, and to gradually build up strength to stand comfortably for longer periods of time. Particularly when starting out, do not overdo it. It took me over a year to get to the point that I was comfortable standing for more than a couple hours at a time. Even then, I’m not convinced that standing for that amount of time is a good thing.
My personal preference is to vary my workplace throughout the day. Experiment with what works best for you!
What is your take on the standing desk craze? Do you stand for more than a couple hours per day? What are your suggestions for those looking to move to a standing desk?