Are you sitting down while reading this article? Because we have some news that you might want to stand up to hear.
Increasingly alarming scientific evidence indicates that our sedentary lifestyles are dramatically shortening our lifespans. Excessive sitting has been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and other life-threatening ailments. Newer studies have also tied to sedentary behavior to memory loss and low brain function.
However, most jobs in the information age force workers to stare at computer screens for extended periods of time – over 85 percent of the American workforce sits down for most of the day.
That’s why standing desks have become the must-have piece of office equipment for the health-conscious modern worker. By standing at your desk instead of sitting, you take a proactive stand in favor of your long-term physical and mental health, without affecting your productivity at work.
Aware of the increasing body of evidence showing that excessive standing can also be harmful to your health, you may have already purchased a sit-stand desk converter. Hopefully, you got the sit-stand kind that allows you to shift between sitting and standing positions throughout the day, as recommended by doctors and scientists.
However, there is more to a standing desk converter than an adjustable desktop. As standing desks have become ubiquitous in recent years, an entire market of ergonomic accessories has emerged around them.
There are a wide variety of accessories on the market that are designed to help you get the most out of your standing desk.
These standing desk accessories range from free stuff that you probably already have around the house to minor purchases and even major investments towards your fitness.
Here are some of the indispensable standing desk accessories that will work for every person’s budget.
Sitting down all day long is one of the worst things that you can do to your body, but it’s important to strike a good balance between sitting and standing. Studies have linked too much standing to varicose veins, various aches and pains and decreased blood flow.
The simplest way to ward off any foot, knee, back and leg pain while working in a standing position would be to wear comfortable shoes that provide a solid amount of arch support. These should be more like the shoes you would wear to go running.
If your employer allows standing desks, they hopefully have a liberal footwear policy, but you may need to stash an extra pair of shoes in your desk drawer and surreptitiously slip between the pairs throughout the day for formal business meetings.
Whatever the case, just resist the urge to go barefoot – your office is not the beach.
Timer or Stopwatch
Many new standing desk users try to stand too much too soon, mistakenly believing that more standing directly leads to greater health. This kamikaze approach quickly leads to muscle fatigue, and it’s one of the main reasons why most sit-stand desk rookies stop standing at work within the first month of use.
To reap the most rewards from working at a sit-stand desk, it is important to strike the right balance between sitting and standing. The true enemy of the human body is not necessarily sitting or standing, but rather a lack of regular movement.
Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, recommends a sit-stand-move ratio of 20:8:2. That means that you should spend twenty minutes sitting, eight minutes standing and two minutes standing and moving (a walk or some light stretching) for every thirty minutes at your desk.
Use a stopwatch or download a free interval timer app on your smartphone, then set it to keep repeating that 20:8:2 ratio throughout your day. Stick to that plan and you should stave off all the negative side effects associated with both excessive sitting and excessive standing.
Simply knowing how to set up your equipment for maximum ergonomic benefit will help you get more out of your standing desk. The wonderful thing about knowledge is that it’s completely free (it’s also half the battle, according to GI Joe, but that’s neither here nor there).
Here are a few tips for optimizing the existing ergonomics of your standing desk set-up:
- Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart, your shoulders back and your neck straight
- Don’t stand like a statue in one position – shift your weight around and keep moving
- The top of your screen should be set to eye level and tilted back about twenty degrees.
- The surface of the desktop should be roughly level to your elbows
- Your monitor should be set at a distance equal to the size of the screen (if you have a 17-inch screen, set it about 17 inches away)
Of course, every person’s body is different, so having a sit-stand desk that adjusts to your exact size, as opposed to a desk with pre-set stops, will allow you to optimize the ergonomics of your standing desk set-up.
Anti-Fatigue Standing Mats
A 2014 study by the National Institute of Health found that workers who stood for more than two hours reported less pain when using an anti-fatigue mat. Those results jibe with previous studies that tracked stand-all-day workers such as hairdresser.
Sticking a soft mat under your feet while working at your standing desk not only cushions your spine, legs and feet for extended periods of standing, it also subtly encourages muscle movements.
This helps stave off pain and stiffness and cancels the negative side effects of excessive standing, especially decreased blood flow. Using an anti-fatigue mat at your standing desk stimulates blood circulation in your legs and feet, which prevents the development of lower body pain and varicose veins.
There are ergonomically designed anti-fatigue mats for sale that provide the perfect amount of cushion and muscle stimulation while also tastefully blending with the décor of your home or office.
If you don’t care how your workspace looks, though, some cushion is better than no cushion at all, so at least lay an old exercise mat or two on the ground in front of your standing desk while you work.
This is another area where you can choose to spend money on a specially designed ergonomic item that provides the ideal amount of comfort and support.
A sturdy and ergonomic foot rest allows you to stretch out and rest your legs and feet while standing, another activity that encourages improved blood flow and prevents muscle fatigue.
Wireless keyboard and mouse
This is for laptop-only users who also own a sit-stand desktop converter with multiple tiers.
A wireless keyboard and mouse set-up will let you stick your laptop screen at eye-level on the upper tier while leaving your keyboard and mouse at elbow-level on the lower tier (mounting an additional monitor would also work, but more on that below).
This set-up prevents laptop-only users from having to crane their head down at their screen while they type and click, an anti-ergonomic position that can lead to neck pain, eye strain and headaches.
Adding an ergonomic armrest to your standing desk is especially helpful if you suffer from chronic wrist and neck pain.
These accessories are designed to support the wrist on your mouse hand. The soft, padded surfaces attach to the edge of your desk, and they have proved effective at combating work-related musculoskeletal disorders related to the neck and upper limbs.
Stick one of these cylindrical foam tubes under your feet to stay active while you work. Your body is burning at least eight extra calories per hour while standing as opposed to sitting, and a foam roller helps your muscles stay loose during that time.
Roll it under your foot while you stand to stretch out your muscles or put your standing weight on it to rest a tired leg without taking a seat.
Height-adjustable mobile CPU stand
There are many sizes of sit-stand desks, and not all of them have enough space on the desktop to fit a bulky computer tower. A CPU stand keeps the heavy equipment off your desktop and out of your way. Even better, having the ability to adjust heights prevents you from straining to reach the hard drive.
This support garment can be beneficial for people with existing back issues, as well as for new standing desk users who are trying to build up strength and correct their posture.
Most posture trainers should fit discreetly under your clothes, but if you feel self-conscious about wearing it to work, you can save it to wear at the standing desk in your home office.
A high-quality sit-stand desk becomes significantly more effective when paired with a high-quality ergonomic chair. The comfort and alignment that they provide to your body are immeasurable, and a bad chair undermines some of the positive benefits of standing at your desk, such as reduced back pain and improved posture.
Monitor Arm Mounts
A sturdy single-arm or dual-arm monitor mount ensures that your screen stays at the proper ergonomic height, no matter if you’re sitting down or standing up. This will reduce the strain on your shoulders, neck and eyes.
These standing boards exercise your core while you work. There are a wide variety of balance boards available, everything from super high-end models costing over one hundred dollars to bare-bones versions that cost about twenty bucks.
Using a balance board while you work inevitably leads to a decrease in computer-related motor skills, so these are better suited for creative thinking sessions than for tasks that require extreme focus.
Mini Bicycle or Elliptical Trainer
Why simply sit or stand at work when you can cycle or step the pounds away?
These mini-exercise machines allow you to feel the burn while checking your e-mail, offering a lot more physical activity than the mere eight extra calories you burn for every hour you’re standing at work instead of sitting.
Of course, if you thought that the balance board diminished your ability to format a spreadsheet, an elliptical trainer could destroy your mouse-click game altogether. Therefore, it makes the most sense to save your tougher work for sitting, while standing (or cycling) for brainstorming sessions and simpler tasks.