How to Get Started with a Standing Desk

Standing desks are great. They’re arguably better for your health than sitting, have been known to increase productivity, and can improve focus. But you can’t just jump right into using one—there’s both a learning curve and a physical adjustment to go through.

Is a Standing Desk Really Worth It?

Let’s be real here: sitting too much is not good for your health, even if you exercise regularly. Studies like this one from Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews show that regular, long periods of sitting increases the risk of mortality from pretty much any cause, especially those associated with obesity and the myriad conditions that make up metabolic syndrome. And it goes on to show that “too much sitting is distinct from too little exercise.”

Other studies have shown that too much sitting can weaken your core muscles, which makes you slouch, and in turn cause postural problems that can be related to headaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain.

So how can you solve this issue when you work at a desk for a living? By switching to a standing desk. But here’s the thing: too much of anything is bad for you—this includes standing.

So while sitting all the time is bad for you, standing all the time is also not great. If you’re considering making the leap to standing desk, that’s why you should look at a sit/stand desk. That way you get the best of both worlds—you can sit when you’re tired, or stand when you need a change.

How to Make the Most of Your Time with a Standing Desk

Let me preface here with some details about my personal experience with standing desks. I’ve been using a sit/stand desk for several years now, so this isn’t just a bunch of random “facts” I’ve read on the internet—nope, all of this is based on real-world usage and things I’ve learned throughout my time using a standing desk.

Here are the things I discovered along the way.

You Don’t Have to Spend a Lot of Money to Get Started

When I first got interested in the idea of using a standing desk, I weighed all my options—I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something I didn’t know if I’d even like! And if you’ve looked at standing desks, you know they’re not cheap.

That’s why I opted for a cheap, makeshift solution. I ended up spending about $25 on a cheap side table, a shelf, and a couple of brackets—basically this.

I put that setup atop my desk, and then put my laptop and external keyboard on it. The first day I probably didn’t stand more than 30 minutes. But that’s the thing: like with basically anything new, it takes time.

If you don’t have room for the extra table in your workspace, or if you’re in an office where you need things to look a little cleaner, there are other solutions. The Spark ($25) is a folding cardboard setup intended to give you a cheap way to try out a standing desk and see if it’s for you.

And of course, if you want an even more stylish sit/stand desk that’s easy to work into your current environment, you can go all in and get something like the VIVO Height Adjustable desk ($185) or the VARIDESK ($375) that’s widely consider the cream of the crop for adjustable desktop setups.

RELATED: The Different Kinds of Standing Desks (and Which You Should Use)

Ease Yourself Into It

The biggest mistake people tend to make when switching to a standing desk is assuming that they can immediately stand for eight hours a day. That is not the case. Your legs, feet, back, and everything else will absolutely kill you.

Instead, it’s better to pace yourself. Stand until you don’t feel like standing anymore, and then sit for a while. When you’re feeling up to it, stand back up. Just do this throughout the day, and as time goes on you’ll likely end up standing more than you sit.

Get a Good Mat

If there’s one thing every standing desk user needs, it’s a good mat to stand on. Not a $15 yoga mat or even the “super comfortable” gel mat from your kitchen. You need a real mat. It’s better for your feet, legs, and knees.

Fortunately, our sister site Review Geek has an excellent roundup of the best mats you can buy. Some are ergonomic mats with ridges that let you rest your feet and legs in different ways. Others are flat, but provide enough cushioning that you can use them barefoot, but enough strength that they can stand up to your shoes.

So, do yourself a favor and pony up the money for a good one—you’ll be glad you did.

Managing Cables is Different When you Stand

Cable management is important with any computer system, but even moreso with a dedicated sit/stand setup. Why? Because you have to take into consideration that your desk is going to move. So you’ll have to arrange your cables in a way that keeps them clean but also allows for the desk to go up and down.

You’ll have to take your full setup into consideration here—where you place your PC tower is probably the most crucial point. Because if you put it in the floor, the cables may not be long enough to reach standing position. If your desk is big enough, it’ll be easiest to just put the tower on top. That way it’ll move along with the desk.

Ergonomics are Just as Important with a Standing Desk

If you want proper ergonomics, you’ll have to work a bit more with a standing desk—especially if you’re a full-time laptop user. When you’re sitting, you have to tilt your head down to look at the screen of a laptop, which is already bad for your neck.

But when you stand, it’s even worse. Your head will likely be higher in relations to your laptop screen when standing, so you’ll have to further bend your neck down to compensate. It’s a recipe for disaster.

That’s why we recommend getting an external monitor for your laptop. Or, at the very least, an external keyboard so you can raise your laptop’s display to eye-level. Either way you go, take care of your neck. After all, what’s the point of standing to be healthier if you’re just going to damage your neck?

Image Credit: Mike Focus/Shutterstock.com; Ian Dyball/Shutterstock.com; elenabsl/Shutterstock.com

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.