Disclaimer: Despite the benefits I have found from standing while I work you should consult your doctor if you have any medical conditions that might make standing harmful to your body.
A couple years ago I transitioned from sitting all day while I worked to standing all day. It didn't happen overnight, I eased into it, but I am so happy that I did. I stay more awake during the day and my body overall feels stronger and better than it did before. I often get asked how I made the change from sitting to standing all day so I decided to write a blog post about it!
I know you might be expecting me to rattle off a bunch of reasons why standing is great for everyone. However, the reality is, we don't know. Studies on whether standing is healthier for you are inconclusive. Rather than compare studies, I am going to share the benefits I have seen and felt.
For me, standing while I work has made my body feel a lot better. My head and neck are aligned in such a way that I never get back or neck pain like I used to. Plus, my butt doesn't get sore from being in a chair all day. In addition to less aches, overall I feel stronger and have more endurance. Because standing engages more muscles than sitting, I find that my core strength and my back are stronger now. When I used to sit at work, if I was on my feet a lot during the weekends I used to be exhausted because I wasn't used to it. Now, on the weekends, if I am on my feet all day it is not nearly as draining and I have no problem keeping up!
Another benefit which I never really expected was that it has helped improve my digestion. I use to feel bloated and constipated sitting all day. Now that I stand all day, everything seems to align better and it keeps my gut happy.
On top of feeling better physically, I mentally enjoy it. I don't like sitting still for very long and I tend to fidget a lot. When I stand, I feel the need to fidget less, and when I do fidget or move around, it's more natural when I am standing. I also tend to listen to a lot of music when I code and I usually get pretty into it. When I was sitting, the most I could do was a little head bob. Now that I stand, I can full on low key dance to it! 💃
If you decide you want to try standing for part or all of your work day you first will need a few supplies.
1) Sit/Stand Desk - Getting a sit/stand desk is by far your best option when you are starting out. The desk that my coworkers and I all use are these adjustable motorized desks from Ikea.
2) Standing Pad - You likely will want a little cushion to stand on during the day. The same way a desk chair is better with cushioning, your feet will be happier with a little cushion. There are many options from basic flat mats to those that have bumps and groves for fiddling with. I have used both kinds and can't say I really prefer one or the other.
3) Good Shoes - Hate to break it to you but if you want to stand all day you are going to need good footwear. I make sure anything I wear to work, such as sandals, flats or boots, has adequate support. Another option is to keep a pair of tennis shoes or something like Crocs at your office. Then when you go stand, slip them on. I have a pair of black Crocs that I keep at work for those days I decide to wear less supported shoes.
4) (Optional) Compression Socks/Sleeves - These were the final piece I needed to be able to stand ALL day long. They provide just that little bit of extra support my calves need to prevent me from getting shin splints. Here are the different types I use:
Ok, so you have all of your supplies, now how do you actually make the switch? First and foremost, you want to start slow. This is why having an adjustable sit/stand desk is a huge advantage in the beginning. You never have to move and can adjust it to sit part of the day and stand part of the day. Start by standing for an hour a day. After a week or so, increase it to two hours. Once you are comfortable with that, go to three and so on. The key is to listen to your body and not to push yourself too hard.
When I first started out, before I got compression socks, I found that anything past a few hours would give me shin splints. Rather than push it, I decreased my standing time until I found the compression sock solution. Listen to your body. In the beginning, you may find that you come home a little more tired because you are spending more time on your feet during the day. That is completely normal and part of adjusting to standing all day. Eventually, your body and your standing muscles will grow stronger and standing all day will be no different than when you were sitting all day.
There is one small downside if you decide to transition to standing all day, you can never go back to sitting all day. Seriously, when I travel now I can make it about half a day sitting and then I need to get creative to stand the rest of the day. Case and point:
You might also find that when you attend conferences, you need to walk around more in between talks. I have even been known to stand during some talks because sitting for extended hours now hurts my butt and I tend to get antsy.
Overall, standing has improved my quality of life in and outside of work tremendously. If you are curious if you might be able to experience some of the benefits I have, then I recommend giving it a try!