Five things I learned after switching to a standing desk

Switching to a standing desk can increase your energy, improve blood circulation and burn more calories than sitting. But there are some caveats and logistical challenges to consider.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
4 min read
Taylor Martin/CNET

Sitting at an office desk for prolonged periods of time might be taking a toll on your body. While it's yet to be seen if sitting is as detrimental as some studies have suggested, switching to a standing desk is becoming an increasingly popular way to mitigate the potential health risks.

Read: 4 things you need to know before you buy a standing desk

But swapping a sitting desk out for a standing one isn't as straightforward as it sounds. Before tossing out your old desk, here are some things to consider.

1. There's a honeymoon phase

The first week is the hardest, but it doesn't necessarily get easier.

Like working out, you will probably enjoy the first few hours of standing while you work. You'll notice how refreshing it is and how much easier it is to stay on task. You may even feel a little more energetic while you work.

But once you get past the "honeymoon" phase of standing, fatigue will kick in and you might find yourself starting your days seated once again.

To stay in the habit of standing, it's best to start your day there and stand until you begin to feel your focus and attentiveness fade -- or if you begin to feel discomfort. At this point, it's a good idea to take a seat until you're ready to stand again.

Adjustable desks make this easy, as you can drop the desk to a comfortable sitting height and pull up a chair. If your standing desk is at a fixed height, pull up a bar stool or move to the nearest table or couch.

2. You will burn more calories

You're not standing for the sake of standing, you're burning calories!

The reason you're feeling more energetic and attentive is because being on your feet means you're being slightly more active. Standing burns approximately 30 percent more calories than sitting. So if you were to burn an average of 1,500 calories per work day while sitting, you would burn 2,000 or more while standing for the same duration.

Caloric burn is only the beginning of the health benefits of standing, however. Standing improves posture, increases blood circulation, lowers your risk of disease and blood clots, and will leave you feeling better at the end of a long work day.

3. Display height matters (a lot)

A raised workspace can create a greater distance between your hands and eyes.

When you work at a standing desk, your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle (so that your wrists are straight) and your neck should maintain a neutral posture. But if you work with a laptop and your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, it means your display will be too low, forcing your neck downwards. Over time, this can lead to neck pain.

To avoid this, raise the height of the display by placing your laptop on a stand, then pair it with an external keyboard and mouse. Or you can add an external monitor and set the laptop aside. You should be able to look straight forward and see the monitor without tilting your head.

4. You'll need an anti-fatigue mat

Your feet are probably going to hurt.

Taylor Martin/CNET

During the adjustment period (the first few days or weeks), your feet will probably start to hurt after just a few hours of standing. This is normal, but to alleviate some of the pain in your feet, it's best to invest in an anti-fatigue (gel) mat.

Anti-fatigue mats come in an array of sizes, shapes, and colors, but the idea is the same: to provide an additional layer of cushion between your feet and the floor beneath.

Alternatively, you could invest in a pair of extra comfortable shoes or a balance disc, which will provide more cushion, improve your balance, and work different parts of your feet throughout the day.

5. Cable management

Managing cables at a non-standard height introduces organizational problems.

With a stationary or traditional sitting desk, it's easy to bundle all the cables together and hide them behind one of the legs. With standing desks, which are typically quite leggy (without drawers), there are fewer places to hide away a mess of cables, particularly if you have multiple accessories to go along with your computer, like an additional monitor, a printer and/or an external hard drive.

One solution is to position a surge protector along the back of the desk (or mounted on the wall) and use that as your "power hub." This way, just one cable runs down the wall to an outlet.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.