Standing desks have grown increasingly popular in recent years. First available as a customizable yet costly addition to your workspace, today the standing desk is much more user-friendly and a lot cheaper. And with studies confirming the hazards of sitting for too long every day – which puts you at risk for diabetes, depression, heart disease and several other problems – demand continues to grow.

But how do you use one properly? It is worth noting that yet another series of studies advises not to stand too much, either. Standing on your feet all day over a long period comes with potential health risks of its own – ironically, similar ones to chronic sitting.

Too much of either is harmful

Dr. Chan Badger, a family practitioner at Novant Health Northern Family Medicine in Summerfield, North Carolina, recognizes the harm in both chronic standing and chronic sitting. “I’ve definitely seen a significant amount of injuries related to standing,” he said, “like low back pain and foot pain.” He adds that your heart also has to work against gravity to keep pumping blood throughout your body. This can cause varicose veins, due to increased pressure from blood pooling in the legs.

Badger agrees that a standing desk helps office workers strike a balance.

 “My team at our Kernersville clinic has gone to standing desks, and they like them a lot,” he said. “They are very good for spine alignment and ergonomics. Companies are realizing this, and are starting to give employees options for what kind of desks they want to have.” In fact, Badger said if he wasn’t on his feet seeing patients throughout the day, he’d use one himself.

Employees love it

Anja Fraiser, who works as the branding manager in corporate marketing for Novant Health, also touts its positive effects. “I never thought I wanted one, but I ended up loving it,” she said after three months of using her standing desk. “I found that I have a lot more energy at the end of the day if I use it. I can’t stand the entire day, but if I mix it up, I enjoy doing that.”

Fraiser’s other suggestions are wear the right shoes, stand when you’re working on quick and small tasks (like checking email), and be aware of how much you sit throughout the day to motivate you to stand more. “I’m sitting in my car to drive, for meals, in meetings – I’m sitting all day unless I mix it up,” she said.

Tips for use

One study recommends gradually building up to two hours of total standing time per day. You should use both standing and sitting breaks intermittently to rest your lower back and wake your muscles up.

Finally, be sure you’re following proper ergonomics. Whether you’re sitting or standing, for example, your arms should rest at 90-degree angles, your wrists should lie straight, and your computer screen adjusted to eye level. Proper postures like these protect your joints from painful side effects that develop over time. 

You can browse doctors and locations, then make an appointment instantly at Novant Health.