Updated March 21, 2022
How You Can Start Standing at Work in the Next 30 Days
You may have heard the saying, "Sitting is the new smoking." But, maybe you are wondering if this is just a fad.
Extensive research into the dangers of extended periods of sitting tells us that it's not a fad. Sitting is linked to some of the top killers of Americans: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and a few types of cancer.
And since most people work 8 or more hours per day, their job is where they're doing the most damage to their health.
"The more we sit the worse it is. The longer the duration of sitting, the more negative the impact on our cardiovascular health." Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum
For those who start standing and moving more, the most commonly reported benefits are:
- weight loss
- increased productivity
- better mood
- reduced back pain (for those suffering from back pain)
Tips for Standing More at Work
We have found that everyone has a slightly different experience of starting to stand while they work. Some find that they have more energy, while others find themselves more tired at the end of the day.
Here's a list of tips we've gathered from people who have successfully made the transition from being sedentary to non-sedentary.
1. Take your time
If you haven't read the article by Dan Fois of New Yorker Magazine about his 30-day experiment where he stood all day, every day (even at restaurants and movie theaters), check it out. Though he had terrible leg cramps from standing all day (he later found out that stretching relieved the cramps), he lost 5 pounds and had the most productive month of his career.
2. Get others involved
If you can make this a competition with other workmates about who is moving the most, the motivation to beat your colleagues can push you to stay with the challenge, and even excel. If you can't get others to compete with you, at least let colleagues and family know that you're doing it, and ask them to help you be accountable to them for staying with it.
3. Keep good posture
If you start standing more, but you do it with bad posture, you're not getting all of the benefits of standing. What is good posture?
- Your chest sticks out, and your shoulders are back.
- Your chin is up, and your head is not tilted forward. If someone looks at you from the side, your ears should be over your shoulders. If you're not sure you're doing this, have someone take a picture of you from the side.
It's really important that you set your workspace up properly to help you keep good posture:
- Your monitor should be at eye-level when you're sitting and sitting, and your eyes should be the size of the screen's distance from the monitor. If you have a 20-inch monitor, your face should be 20 inches away.
- Your keyboard should be at hip level so you're not reaching up and out for the keyboard. If you're using a laptop and you put it up on a shelf of some kind of a stand to get the monitor eye-height, then use a USB or wireless keyboard that is close enough so your elbows are close to your body.
Check out our Proper Workplace Infographics for more advice about proper posture and ergonomics while standing, seated, and on the phone.
There are two paths to this challenge. You can alternate between the two options throughout the 30 days. Option one is the recommended route, but we understand that many people may not have access to a standing desk or a sit-to-stand adjustable desk.
Whichever one you choose, the most important principle is that you need to move every 20 minutes. Experts tell us that the human body is designed to move, we aren't designed to sit still. So if you're using a standing desk, you aren't standing immobile all day. You're fidgeting, shifting, dancing, stretching, doing yoga poses, and you're switching from sitting to standing throughout the day.
Option 1: Use a Standing Desk or a Sit/Stand Desk
Option 1 is best for people who have an adjustable height standing desk so you can easily alternate between sitting and standing. You could also build your own standing desk.
Before you start standing at your desk, make sure that you have good shoes for standing. High heels and uncomfortable shoes will reduce the time you spend standing, and may sabotage your plan to stop sitting. You can keep a second pair of shoes at your desk that you just use at your desk. If you wear orthotics, definitely use them while standing.
A second item that will help reduce fatigue and make you more comfortable is a floor mat. Some standers report getting tired, and if they overdo it, cramps in their legs. A good floor mat will reduce this from happening.
Week 1: Don't sit for more than 20 minutes at a time at your desk. Use an app or alarm to remind you switch your desk to the standing position after 20 minutes of sitting. Check out our app recommendations below.
How long should you stand? As long as you're comfortable. Just remember the 20 minute rule - don't stand immobile when you're up. Keep shifting and moving. This is a 30-day challenge, and it's a marathon, not a sprint. Many people who started using an adjustable height desk and pushed themselves too hard in the beginning, stopped standing altogether.
Week 2: Extend the time your spend standing. In your first week, every time you stood you may have averaged 10 minutes per period of standing. Start to push yourself a little bit. And add more movement to your standing, which can include:
- calf raises
- squats and one-legged squats
- standing on an overturned garbage can
- yoga poses
For stretches and strength exercises that you can do at your desk, check out the videos below.
Week 3: You should be getting into a groove for how much you stand vs. sit, and what you do while standing and sitting. Some standing desk users feel that low concentration activities (such as talking on the phone) can be done standing, and activities that require intense focus are done seated. Push yourself to stand and move more, to stand at least 50% of your day. Where will you end up? 50% standing and 50% sitting? 80/20? You'll find your own ratio.
Week 4: At this point you may be in the habit of moving every 20 minutes, and standing at least half of your day. Now it's time to apply your habit outside of work. If you are standing at moving all day at work, it may make you a little more tired. You may find yourself crashing on the couch for long periods when you get home. But now that you've given your body some time to get used to your new routine, start standing and moving at home. Not that you can't relax, but marathon couch sessions is a sedentary behavior that's undoing all of the good that you're doing at work. Here are a few tips to get you moving at home:
- If you're a TV watcher, get up and do something every commercial.
- Drink lots of water so you're getting up and going to the bathroom more often.
- Stretch or do light exercise while watching TV.
Option 2: Sit with Activity Breaks
Sit at your desk, every 20 minutes do one of the following:
- Stretch. See the stretches below to get started.
- Walk. Instead of emailing a colleague, walk to their desk. Instead of having sitting meetings, many companies are doing walking meetings. Instead of using the elevator, walk the stairs.
- Exercise. Check out the standing desk workouts below.
Apps for Standing and Moving
Stretches at Your Desk
Here are several stretches that you can do while working. The stretches start around the 1:03 mark.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I am experiencing leg or foot pain?
Many people benefit from a good standing desk mat. If you're experiencing any pain, reduce or stop standing for a little while to see if you're just sore. Dan Fois also found that stretching his legs made a huge difference in his soreness. If you suspect it's something more, see your doctor.
What if I don't have a standing desk?
You can either build your own or buy an adjustable height standing desk. If you want to go the DIY route, here is a great article showing six methods to build your own desk at home.
I made it through the challenge, what should I do next?
Many of us stand all day, but that's not for everyone. The best thing to do is to keep breaking up your work day with some sort of activity every 20 minutes. This habit will keep you flexible, healthy, and hopefully full of energy.
Do you have any questions about the challenge? Please comment below!