Standing Desks That Work for You

You may have heard that the simple act of sitting has now joined a growing list of enjoyable activities that are now considered a health hazard.  According to James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., "excessive sitting" is a "lethal activity", as reported in the New York Times[1]. Unfortunately, most jobs involve sitting for a large part of the day. Are we all doomed? Not necessarily. Standing desks are an option. The type of standing desk that is right for you depends on how much you want to spend, the size of your workspace, and the amount of mobility you expect (or want to have) while you work.

Standing deskCredit:

A rather uncomfortable stand/sit desk

Laptop and Monitor Stand

Pros: Inexpensive

Cons: Not good for large workspaces; Limited flexibility

At between $50 to $300, the cheapest standing desk options are stands that you put on your existing desk to raise your monitor or laptop.

Some basic stands, however, are not adjustable. Don't overlook this limitation. Putting the monitor and keyboard at the right level is essential for your comfort and health and you might need to experiment to find the right position. 

Desk StandCredit:

iCraze Adjustable Vented Stand

If the stand is adjustable, then make sure that is has room for both your monitor and keyboard, and that you can adjust both independently.

These types of stands might not work for you if you need a large monitor, phone, printer, or even multiple monitors, which is common in the corporate world. Most of these stands do not have nearly enough space for that much equipment.

Finally, consider the ease of use. Ideally, you want to alternate between sitting and standing. Therefore, make sure that when using the stand you can transition from sitting to standing with little rearrangement of your workspace. If you need to move monitors and keyboards, or unplug and plug-in devices every time you switch between standing and sitting, you will likely stay seated. 

Manual Standing Desk

Pros: More room for accessories

Cons: Can be difficult to transition between sitting and standing

If you need a desk with more room and you have more money to spend, consider a large adjustable desk that you can raise and lower.

Before you buy a desk, make sure that you can adjust the height to your desired sitting and standing levels. This step is important especially if you are tall (over 6 feet). 

Don't get a high desk that is not adjustable. Such a desk commits you to standing all day, which is just as unhealthy as sitting all day. Your legs and feet will ache, especially if you are standing in the same spot for hours at a time.

Look for a desk that is easy to raise and lower. Some have a hand-operated crank. You want to raise and lower it easily and to a preset height if possible. The more effort you need to raise and lower, the less likely you will use it, which is why a motorized standing desk is a better option, if you have the money.

Motorized Standing Desk

Pros: Easy to transition between sitting and standing

Cons: Cost

Although they are more expensive, consider a motorized standing desk. You raise and lower it to preset levels by pressing a button.

 Automated Standing DeskCredit:


Ergotron WorkFit-D, Sit-Stand Desk

The only drawback to a motorized desk is that it has more parts that can fail. Not that I have heard of this being a problem, but I always consider this possibility in my buying decisions.

Treadmill Desk

Pros: Allows the most movement; is the healthiest option.

Cons: Cost; can take time adjusting to walking and working at the same time.

If cost is not a concern and you want the most mobility while you work, look at a treadmill desk. A treadmill desk is the most expensive option, but potentially the best option because moving, even slightly, helps your circulation and digestion. Further, walking at a slow pace is better than standing in the same spot because when you constantly shift your weight you avoid putting too much pressure on any one part of your body. You can stay standing longer without your legs or feet aching. Not only that, studies show that treadmill desks can boost your productivity[2].

A treadmill desk is not for everyone though. Can you comfortably type and use the mouse while walking? Many people find they can, but the best way to answer the question, before you fork out the money for a treadmill desk, is to find someone who already has a treadmill desk and ask them if you can "borrow it" for a while. Just keep in mind that initially you will find the sensation odd. Most people adjust to it over time and learn the right walking speed for them. 

A treadmill desk is expensive. Expect to spend anywhere from $1500 to $7000. Treadmills also have moving parts. Moving parts need maintenance and sometimes they break and need replacement. Factor in the cost of maintenance.


LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill DeskCredit:

 LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk

Additional Suggestions

Here are some other items to consider when you start standing more at your desk:

  • If you choose a standing option other than a treadmill, don't forget to stand on a soft surface, like a foam mat. Your feet will thank you.
  • Make sure your keyboard and monitor are in a comfortable, ergonomic position. 

Finally, you might have noticed I described only four options, not five. I saved the best option for last. Avoid this problem entirely by getting a job that does not involve sitting. For myself, I am thinking park ranger.

 Good luck!


LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk
Amazon Price: $1,299.00 Buy Now
(price as of May 3, 2016)
This treadmill desk is not cheap, but it is one of the highest rated. Just be aware that treadmills don't last forever, so if it gets heavy use, eventually you will need to replace parts.
40" Dark Walnut Shelves Mobile Ergonomic Stand Up Desk Computer Workstation
Amazon Price: $333.00 $179.00 Buy Now
(price as of May 3, 2016)
This desk is not the most stylish looking, but it is inexpensive, has adjustable lower and upper shelves, and room for two monitors.