Many people sit at their desks most of the workday -- while they work from home (especially during a pandemic) or in the office. They are also sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating while driving or taking public transportation. You've probably heard that sitting for too long can be bad for your health: Studies show that sitting for a long time (aka "sedentary disease") is associated with a higher risk of a range of problems, including heart disease and diabetes, certain cancers and premature birth die. If you're concerned about sitting or feeling pain after prolonged sitting, you should consider switching to a standing desk.
But that doesn't mean you should stand all day. "Repetitive, prolonged standing is also associated with the development of serious health problems," Chambers told us via email. Like those in retail, manufacturing and healthcare, working standing up for most of the workday can lead to degenerative joint damage, muscle damage and circulatory problems such as venous disease, increased risk of stroke and circulatory problems, she said. Carotid atherosclerosis. So fixed-height standing desk setups - like many DIY types - aren't ideal if you're going to be working on them for a long time.
That's where a height adjustable desk (also known as a sit-stand desk) comes in. As our experts suggest, you can quickly raise or lower your desk to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the workday. Researchers at the University of Waterloo, who studied low back pain in people sitting and standing at desks, recommend a sit-to-stand ratio of between 1:1 and 1:3. In other words, you should sit and stand for an equal amount of time each day, or at the highest ratio, 15 minutes of sitting and 45 minutes of standing every hour.
Using a sit-stand desk can significantly reduce lower back pain, according to a Chambers analysis of 53 sit-stand desk studies. However, the jury is still out on many of the potential benefits, and as with all science, the researchers say more investigation is needed. If you're looking to add more physical activity to your day, lose weight, or improve your brain power -- advantages some desk makers may try to sell you on -- there's no evidence that a standing desk can do it for you. As one pediatrics professor wrote in a New York Times article, standing at a desk is no substitute for exercise
In addition to the potential health benefits of switching between sitting and standing positions, a great standing desk offers other advantages, largely thanks to its customizability. An adjustable standing desk is also an adjustable desk: if you find an average height desk (29 to 30 inches) too high or too low, you can lower or raise it so you can sit more comfortably, More ergonomic. You can program two different heights depending on whether you wear shoes or not. As your energy and focus ebb and flow throughout the day, you can choose to sit or stand depending on what makes you feel more productive.
The motorized white standing desk we recommend here represent the easiest way to alternate between sitting and standing -- but they're a major investment. Another option is a standing desk converter, which sits on a standard desk and raises the keyboard and monitor to stand or lowers them to sit. Converters typically cost less than full-size standing desks, but they don't allow you to easily adjust heights with the push of a button, height memory presets, or lots of workspace. If price is more important to you than those features, the converter is the more affordable option.
How we pick
After years of using and testing standing desks, as well as getting feedback from our readers, we've focused our criteria on the following features:
Electronic Controls: Electric standing desks use motors to move between heights at the touch of a button and are the most convenient, reliable, and cost-effective adjustable standing desks available. In general, we don't recommend manually adjusting standing desks -- the kind you have to crank by hand to raise or lower them -- as our tests have shown they're harder to use and can suffer from load balancing issues. They make us less likely to want to switch positions, you know, that's the point. However, we do understand that manually adjustable standing desks are a more affordable option of interest to many, so we're considering a separate guideline test of these products (once we have enough bandwidth, space, and a test panel can do so).
Height Range: Bamboo standing desks typically have two different frame height options to accommodate different height ranges. We chose desks to test and recommend based on two main frame types: Best for those under 5'4, which is the average height for women based on survey data (PDF), and Best for those over 5'4. 5 feet 4 inches. Some desk manufacturers charge more for legs that increase the height range, and we noticed such surcharges in our comparison.
Long-term functionality: Most fully adjustable and height-programmable desks cost at least $500. This is not a small investment. They should be stable for a decade or more. Manufacturers should offer fast, reliable support and long-term warranties (five years or more) for maximum peace of mind in case you need to replace your electronic control box or keyboard while you're on the road.
Customization: The best wooden standing desk manufacturers include many customization options, allowing you to choose the look and size of your desktop. Some people sell the frame separately from the tabletop so that customers can buy the frame and then attach it to the tabletop of their choice. But most people just want an out-of-the-box look, with a choice of sizes and shapes that fit their work and workspace.
Buying Experience and Assembly: New desks should be shipped free of charge and delivered to buyers in the continental U.S. within a week - barring any unusual circumstances, such as pandemics and extreme weather. We favor companies that offer 30-day refunds and free return shipping. While assembly is a feat that only needs to be done once, the table should be easy to assemble, at least no harder than assembling IKEA furniture. If you don't want to or can't assemble the desk yourself, it's an advantage that manufacturers offer home assembly services at an additional cost. Note that desks may require the use of a drill and someone else to help you lift the desk after assembly; a typical 48" standing desk with a laminate top weighs over 100 lbs.
Some other nice additions but not necessary to note:
Accessories: Some manufacturers offer accessories for their desks, such as grommet cable guides (some with integrated power plugs), privacy screens, or PC stands. We looked at what desktop manufacturers had to offer and considered whether these accessories were useful, affordable, and in some cases Fezibo had picked themselves (as in the case of monitor arms).
High weight capacity: Some desks can lift over 350 pounds, which is a sign of strength, but unless you have particularly heavy equipment to lift, it's not a big deal. Even a setup with multiple monitors, tower PCs, large speakers, and typical computer accessories adds up to around 100 pounds. However, the weight of the tabletop itself also needs to be taken into account: a 60-inch laminate tabletop weighs about 40 pounds, while a high-quality hardwood tabletop of the same size can weigh more than 90 pounds.