6 ways to fight fatigue while using your standing desk

You’ve finally committed to the idea of using a standing desk. You know you need to start slowly and be consistent in order to turn using your standing desk into a habit. Obviously, the goal is to get to that magical point where you don’t even have to think about it, you just do it. And that means you’ll need to minimize any pain or discomfort.

In order to set yourself up for success as soon as you begin, follow these simple tips to reduce fatigue while using a standing desk:

  1. Maintain the correct posture.

    According to doctor of physical therapy Kelly Starrett, whenever you stand, you need to squeeze your buttocks muscles together, without tucking your rear end in under your pelvis too far or sticking it out behind you too far, either. At the same time, you need to tighten the muscles in your stomach, but not to an exaggerated degree. Don’t tighten the muscles as much as you would if you were expecting someone to punch you, for example. Instead, tighten your stomach muscles to about 20 percent of your best effort. Once you have these two aspects of your posture under control, simply let your arms hang down by your sides and roll your shoulders back naturally so that your thumbs are facing forward. Even when you sit down, you should try to maintain your torso in this position.

  2. Vary your standing position.

    Starrett warns that it’s important not to try to stand in one position for long periods of time. Instead, it’s a good idea to constantly be moving about. “Your best position is your next position,” he says. Ideally, you should have a footstool of some kind, even if it’s just a cardboard box or a stack of phone books in the beginning. Later on, you can spend as little or as much as you want on a footrest of the perfect height. Here’s a basic folding step stool for $15 that might do the trick. But if you have the budget, opt for something like the sturdier Safco Ergonomic Industrial Adjustable Height Footstool, which will cost you around $90. (A footstool that is adjustable will come in handy, and we’ll address that later on.) When it comes to varying your position, begin by standing on both feet. After a few minutes, lift one of your feet and rest it on the footstool. A few minutes later, switch to resting your other foot on the footstool instead. After you’ve mastered moving between these three positions, try adding in some other positions, too, like leaning forward onto your desk a little. You want to have a number of different positions in your repertoire when it comes to working at your standing desk and you should be constantly moving between them throughout the course of the day.

  3. Get an anti-fatigue mat.

    Those who have to stand for long periods of time on wood, tile, or concrete floors, even when they’re covered in carpeting, have reported all kinds of health problems as a result, including varicose veins, swelling in the lower limbs, circulatory problems, and foot, back, and neck pain. (These health problems don’t tend to be as severe as those you develop from prolonged sitting, of course, but they can still be a nuisance and need to be prevented.) Besides simply feeling good, the cushiness of an anti-fatigue mat keeps you ever-so-slightly off-balance, which makes you contract the muscles in your shins and calves. This contraction of muscles pushes your blood back up to your core to be re-oxygenated. One of the most popular mats is the Sublime Imprint Anti-Fatigue Mat, which comes in a variety of different colors and sizes. This particular brand was tested by the Center for Ergonomics at the University of Michigan, where it was found to reduce fatigue by up to 60 percent. If you don’t have the $60 to fork over right away, just use an old exercise mat for the time being.

  4. Choose your shoes wisely.

    Obviously, what you wear on your feet is going to make a difference in both your level of comfort while working and your subsequent level of fatigue. And of course it’s not a good idea to stand for an extended period of time in shoes that are uncomfortable in any way, which means that most, if not all, high-heeled shoes are out. Making specific recommendations beyond this, however, tends to be somewhat difficult, since everyone’s feet are different. Some people wear running shoes. Others simply work barefoot. Some people swear by barefoot shoes, while others require more arch support. So, if you’re planning to work at a standing desk for a good part of the day, put a little thought into the shoes you’ll wear and listen to what your feet are telling you. If your shoes start to make your feet hurt, change them. You will probably need to experiment until you find the right pair for you. If you find your feet begin to give you real trouble and you’ve tried a number of different shoes to no avail, schedule an appointment with an orthopedist or podiatrist and get his or her recommendation for the best kind of shoe for the particular problem you are experiencing.

  5. Vary between sitting, standing, and walking.

    Research has clearly shown that prolonged sitting is terrible for your health but too much standing can be detrimental, too, as we pointed out in tip number three. For this reason, it’s best to have both sitting and standing options available in your workspace and for you to alternate between the two positions. (And this is when that adjustable footrest will come in handy.) According to the ergonomists at Humantech you should never stand for more than one hour at a time and for no more than half of your day (or four hours of your eight hour day). Every now and then, take a little break and go for a short walk, even if it’s just around the office. To make switching between sitting and standing easier, you may wish to invest in an adjustable standing desk. Or you may simply wish to have one work surface that you stand at and another that you sit at. If you have the budget, you could also purchase an adjustable chair like the Stance Move EXT 50, which can support you as sit, kneel, or stand.

  6. Stretch a few times throughout your day.

    In the beginning, you may want to schedule these stretches, as it is easy to forget to do them. For a nine to five workday, for instance, set your computer or phone to remind you to stretch at 11a.m., 2p.m., and 4p.m. The Mayo Clinic outlines a brief routine that includes shoulder stretches, upper arm stretches, a chest stretch, some head and neck stretches, a lower back stretches, and thigh stretches here.

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18 comments

  • Goran Blažič

    this couldn’t have been posted at a better time… 😀

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  • I agree that maintaining the correct posture while using a standup desk can affect the way you like them. I understand that being uncomfortable while using furniture can affect the way you see it and how often you would want to use it. I will make sure to know what the right way to use my new standup desk is. Thank you fro sharing.

  • These are superb tips and quite an informative article. Back pain is one of the most common complaints of office workers who sit all day. Standing desks appear to have a positive influence on overall well-being.

  • The footstool in point 2 was a killer tip for me. I was getting fatigued from standing and close to the point of quitting until I discovered this. Duh, standing in the same exact position is fatiguing as well. I have a few colleagues who work at a standing desk. I bought them stools and put them next to their desks without saying anything. They were using them an hour later. It needs no explanation, just availability.

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  • While standing at my desk, I noticed that after about 20 minutes, I’d start shifting my weight around from one foot to the other and couldn’t quite get comfortable. I then decided to get an anti-fatigue Yo-Yo MAT®.

    Using it stimulates the foot muscles through micro movements, which help improve blood circulation and reduce the risk of fatigue and dull ache associated with prolonged standing on hard surfaces.
    This made a tremendous difference in how my back felt, my posture, and my ability to stand for longer duration.

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