person working at treadmill desk

One of the biggest health stories of 2012 was a study of more than 200,000 adults that concluded: Prolonged sitting can shorten your life. Even if you manage to hit the gym a few times a week, there’s a good chance you won’t live as long if you’re not moving for the other 23 hours of the day. 

This study and others like it (there were at least three well-publicized sedentary studies published in 2012) prompted hundreds of desk jockeys to switch to a standing desk. (MNN’s photo editor Catie Leary uses this desk setup, which cost her only $22 and a DIY attitude.)

Are you ready to take the leap? Here's what you need to know, whether you plan to buy one or take the DIY route.

How popular are standing workstations?

Since 80 percent of our workday is spent seated, it’s no wonder that sales of standing desks are increasing. Although total sales figures for these ergonomic alternatives are hard to come by, Steelcase, a leading brand of high-end office furniture, reports that sales of its non-seated workstations have increased five-fold in the last five years; today, these healthier workstations generate more than $40 million for the company.

Another company, Ergo Desktop, sells a version of a standing desk that converts standard desks to the standing variety. Ergo predicted last year that sales figures for its attachment was triple that of 2011.

Internet behemoths like Facebook and Google are adding dozens of these standing desk stations at their campuses.

standing deskWhat type of standing desk should I get?

It depends on budget and how much space you need. Frugal varieties can be purchased for less than $200. Rolls-Royce varieties of standing desks sell for almost $10,000 (chauffeur not included). This one pictured at right, which uses electric height adjustment, runs around $4,000.

One of the higher-end varieties of standing workstations is a treadmill workstation (typically priced around $1,000-$3,000). Some companies sell stations that include a brand-new treadmill; others sell attachments that can be mounted on your treadmill.

If you prefer to alternately stand and sit at your workstation, several models starting at about $160 are available. More expensive varieties feature programmed settings that will raise and lower the desk with the touch of a button.

If your workstation requires more than one monitor and room for several files or papers, curved standing desks are an option.

Need room for only a laptop? One model features a pneumatic lever that can be adjusted for standing and seated positions. It also has a tray that pops out either on the left or right side; a cup holder, fan and USB plug to keep your computer’s internal fans from overheating; a tilting shelf for better eyesight alignment; and rolling casters for easy relocation. This model costs roughly $200.

Should I try to stand all day at work from now on?

standing desk in home office

At least one prominent researcher says “no.” Alan Hedge directs the ergonomics program at Cornell University. Quoted in a New York Times article, he suggested that working from a standing position can be problematic, in part because it dramatically increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis because of the additional load on the circulatory system. Standing all day, he said, also increases the risk of varicose veins.

A good compromise is work desks that can be alternately raised and lowered. While lowered, it might be ergonomically prudent and healthier for blood circulation to be seated on an exercise ball.

With nearly 20 percent of the U.S. government’s budget spent on health care, much of it paying for preventable chronic conditions due to sedentary lifestyles such as obesity, standing desks offer an affordable and simple solution to get us out of our chairs.

Do you have a standing workstation? How does it work for you? Let us know below.

Judd Handler is author of "Living Healthy: 10 Steps to Looking Younger, Losing Weight and Feeling Great." He can be reached at

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Photo credits:

Top: Clockwork Active Media Systems/Flickr

Middle: Anthro

Bottom: ramsey everydaypants/Flickr