Standing desks have become very popular in recent years, since so much data has come out about the harmful effects of excessive sitting . Many people have found them to be beneficial to their physical health and productivity.
If you’re considering getting a standing desk or already have one, you may be wondering how high it should be.
Below, you will learn the best height for a standing desk, important factors to consider, and the pros/cons of using one.
Best Height Of A Standing Desk
In general, a standing desk should be at elbow level when your arms are bent at a roughly 90-degree angle to the floor.
If you measure from the floor to the bottom of your bent elbow, that will tell you the proper height. A person who is 5 feet 11 inches tall will need a desk height of around 44 inches.
Keep in mind, this is just a basic guide, not a hard and fast rule. Body proportions vary, so what is perfect for you may not work for someone else. This is why many standing desks are adjustable.
To adjust your desk correctly, start by standing tall with your head up and shoulders back. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and then raise the desk to where your fingers are lightly touching the keyboard.
You can also check out this video to see this adjustment in action (plus a bonus tip on organizing items on your desk into an “ergonomic arc” around you):
Important Factors While Using A Standing Desk
Setting your standing desk to a certain height is not a “one and done” process. There are variables that may necessitate daily adjustments.
Good posture is just as important when standing as it is when sitting. Be sure to stand straight with your chest and head up and your shoulders back—like you’re standing at attention.
Hunching forward and folding your shoulders in to lean over the desk is a common but harmful tendency. Your forearms should be at a 90-degree angle to the floor and rest flat on the desk.
The goal here is to adjust the desk to you, not the other way around. If the height is not correct, you will change your posture to adapt and thereby put more strain on your body.
If you’re wearing sneakers one day and heels the next, you will have to adjust your desk height accordingly. An inch or two may seem minor, but over time, even these small differences can lead to additional muscle strain and poor posture.
Going barefoot will make an even more noticeable difference if you’re used to wearing shoes. Many desks come with a built-in memory so you can preset your favorite heights. This makes changing positions effortless, no matter what you are wearing.
Using a standing desk doesn’t mean you need to stand all day. In fact, standing all the time has its own negative effects.
Ideally, you should balance standing and sitting by switching back and forth throughout the day. Try a ratio of 1:1 – meaning sitting for a period of time (such as 20, 30, or 60 minutes) and then standing for the same amount of time. You can also try different ratios to see what works best for you .
Some people use timers to remind them to switch positions, but this can also interrupt focus and creativity. You can change position whenever you start to feel uncomfortable or when you perform certain tasks.
Since the keyboard plays a crucial role in your work, having it placed comfortably on your desk is critical. When adjusting your desk height, be sure to have the keyboard already on the desktop so you can find the most comfortable typing position.
The keys should be level with your elbows or even slightly below, but never above that 90-degree angle. If your keyboard is too high, you will angle your hands up at the wrist, which can lead to muscle strain. Your wrists should be straight while typing.
Depending on the desk height, you may need to adjust your monitor to be at a healthy height to prevent neck pain. The upper third of the screen should be at eye level, so that you are never tilting your head up or bending your head too far down.
I know, I know… the image earlier in this article is NOT a good example for this. Don’t just use a laptop like in this picture! It’s better to use an external monitor supported by a monitor arm or adjustable base so you can get the height right.
A standing mat can be a helpful addition to prevent lower body pain while standing at your desk, and it can also affect the height adjustment. There are two types of mats, depending on whether you go barefoot or prefer shoes.
A kitchen mat is best for bare feet. They are thicker and softer to make up for the lack of cushioning you get from shoes.
Standing mats are used with shoes, and they tend to be slimmer and firmer than kitchen mats.
Benefits Of A Standing Desk
As mentioned above, there are a number of benefits to using a standing desk, including the ones listed below.
Improved efficiency and focus
People struggling with mental fatigue have found that using a standing desk can improve their efficiency and ability to focus .
Standing up increases blood circulation to the brain, which can potentially lead to greater mental performance.
It’s also been suggested that standing and moving activates different parts of the brain than sitting does and increases focus and problem-solving abilities.
The small physical adjustments you make while standing can also satisfy any fidgeting needs you may have and allow you to focus on the important task at hand.
Engages core body muscles
When standing, the core muscles in your torso are activated to hold you erect. This cuts down on muscle atrophy and strengthens important postural muscles . It also helps prevent loss of hip mobility, which puts extra stress on other joints.
Sitting in a chair all day can lead to sleepiness. Constantly changing positions from sitting to standing will keep you alert and increase your heart rate. Just the simple act of standing up gives a short energy boost.
Cons Of A Standing Desk
A standing desk is not a magic cure-all for office woes. It has to be used correctly to reap the benefits. Below are a few drawbacks to standing desks.
Too much standing can lead to spinal compression
The constant force of gravity can eventually compress the discs and vertebrae in your back and lead to lower back problems .
You may want to try gradually transitioning to more time spent in the standing position to reduce the risk of back pain.
Note, this is based on our own personal research and not a medical suggestion! Please seek qualified help if you’re concerned about any pain.
Increased risk of varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and heart problems
Your heart is fighting gravity to pump blood all the way up from your toes, and excessive standing makes it work much harder.
Blood can also pool in the feet and lower legs, leading to vein problems . Changing positions frequently throughout the day may be helpful in avoiding some of these physical issues.
Standing incorrectly can worsen posture
Poor posture can become worse by standing for long periods .
Bearing more weight on one leg than the other or allowing your shoulders to roll forward are bad habits that some find leads to more pain.
If you have decided to use a standing desk for its multiple health benefits, adjusting it to the proper height is critical.
Raising it to elbow level is the key to achieving an ergonomic position. Other factors such as your shoes, a standing mat, and your keyboard can all affect the height adjustment.
To fully enjoy your standing desk, practice good posture and regularly move from standing to sitting. This will help you avoid the negative effects of both positions and enjoy increased health and productivity.