Add years to your life just by changing your desk.

You probably know that it’s bad for your health to sit too much each day. But if you work at a desk, there is no easy solution, right? Wrong. Standing desks are a good alternative—if you know how to use them properly.

BOOST YOUR “NEAT”

We’ve long been told that a well-rounded approach to good health includes eating well and getting the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. But research now shows that it’s also important to increase your daily non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). This is the term scientists use to describe the energy that’s expended when we do ordinary activities of daily living.

Why do most individuals need more NEAT? The average American sits about seven hours a day. This sedentary lifestyle increases risk for dangerous conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, to name just a few. Researchers also have discovered that sitting for long periods may even cancel out some of the health benefits that one ordinarily gets from exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body weight.

Good news: Research shows that standing for a portion of the day may help prevent the negative metabolic changes in glucose and cholesterol levels that occur in people who primarily sit throughout the day. People who use adjustable sit-stand workstations also suffer less back and neck pain than when they remain seated.

Sit less to live longer: Research has even shown that average Americans who cut their sitting time in half (to less than three hours a day) may increase their life expectancies by roughly two years.

HOW TO STAY SAFE

Even though a standing desk can be good for your health, you can get injured if you don’t pay attention to your body when using one. What you need to know…

  • Change it up. Just as sitting all day is potentially harmful, standing for long periods of time can cause lower back pain and varicose veins. Listen to your body to know when it’s time to change your position. If your feet are sore, take a seat. If your back is starting to ache (due to muscle strain from sitting too long), it may be time to stand.
  • Watch your posture. Good posture is vital when you’re standing, particularly if you’re working on a computer. The desk surface should be just below elbow height so that your arms form right angles when your hands are on the keyboard. The monitor should be placed 20 to 28 inches away from you with the top of the screen at or a little below eye level. If you use a laptop, buy a detachable keyboard to avoid slouching.
  • Don’t forget your feet. If you’re standing on a hard surface, such as wood or concrete, consider using a floor mat to avoid foot pain.Propping one foot on an angled footstool also may help keep your calf muscles and joints from tightening while standing.

BEST STANDING DESKS

Standing desks (or less expensive “risers”) are available in many different brands and models, but these are among the best…

    • Standing desks. The Ergotron Workfit-D has a movable desktop that adjusts for sitting or standing, $699 (Ergotron.com). Multitable offers the Mod, starting at $549, a sleek crank desk, as well as the Mod-E, starting at $849, which raises and lowers in nine seconds with a push of a button (HeightAdjustableWorktable.com).

Ergo Depot’s AD-125, starting at $709, is an electric model with four different widths and a Scandinavian design (ErgoDepot.com). The Terra by NextDesk, $1,497, has a built-in lift system and features a bamboo desktop (NextDesks.com).

  • Risers. Risers are devices that are used with your existing desk to create a standing-height work surface. The Ergotron WorkFit-S, Single LD, $379, clamps onto your desk and provides easily adjustable monitor and keyboard heights (Ergotron.com). The Varidesk Single, $275, is portable and easy to set up (Varidesk.com), and the Ergo Desktop Kangaroo, $499, has a steel base plate that keeps it stable and secure (ErgoDesktop.com).

Or for a foldable pop-up desk that sits on a standard desktop, $100, go to LampsUSA.com.

Not sure if you will like standing while you work? Put your computer on an elevated surface such as a shelf or counter to test it out.