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How to transition safely to a sit-stand desk

How to transition safely to a sit-stand desk

So you’ve read about the dangers of sitting and decided to switch to a sit-stand desk. Great!  Or is it?…

Although sit-stand desks are a great way to minimise sitting and move more throughout the day the problem is that most people’s bodies aren’t ready to stand for long periods. Moving from sitting all day straight to standing can lead to some very real problems.   

Follow these simple tips to make your transition to a sit-stand desk as smooth as possible.


Transition Gradually


It takes time for the body to adapt to the stress of standing.  Years of sitting means that most people are grossly deconditioned and too weak/ inflexible to work from a standing desk.  So make sure to go slow and give your body a chance to adapt. 

Start with one bout of standing per day of around 10-20 minutes.  Slowly add in more periods of standing throughout the day and then later increase the time spend standing in each period. Listen to your body and if you ache or pain take a break.  Or even better take a break before you ache! A good rule of thumb is to switch postures every 20 minutes and go for a short walk / do a microbreak every hour.



Build your strength


You can speed your transition to a sit-stand desk, and decrease the risk of injury by working on any underlying strength and mobility deficits. The three most common strength deficits when it comes to standing are the feet, hips and trunk.  


Functional reachSupported reach exercise to help the transition to a sit-stand desk

The functional reach is a great exercise to build strength and balance in your feet and hips. To perform:

  • Reach to different angles with one hand whilst your same-side leg reaches in the opposite direction behind you to counterbalance.
  • Make the exercise harder by reaching further or reaching at more of an angle.
  • Common errors include: unlevelling of the hips or shoulders, loss of balance, forward movement of the knee beyond the toes and inward movement of the knee


Trunk stability and endurance can be effectively and safely developed with the side bridge exercise:


Side Bridge

  • Start the exercise lying on one side on your knees, feet and forearms, with your hips and knees slightly bent
  • Your feet, hips and shoulders should all be in one line.
  • Lift your lower hip up slightly and pull your lower shoulder down away from your ear so that your spine begins to straighten—this is the ready position.
  • Move into the plank position raising your hips up and forward (image).
  • Hold the position for 2 breaths before relaxing back into the ready position.
  • Try and breathe into your stomach and the sides of your lower Side bridge exercise to help the transition to a sit-stand deskribs rather than into your shoulders.
  • You should feel the muscles on the bottom side of the trunk working hard.
  • Repeat up to 12-15 repetitions



Build your Mobility


Along with appropriate muscle balance and strength, for good movement and posture we also need sufficient mobility. Many people are so tight that they cannot stand upright with good alignment.  Without the mobility to achieve an upright posture the joints are forced to sit in a compensated position and the muscles have to work harder than necessary. This makes standing more tiring than it should be and can increase the risk of injury.

A good test of general postural mobility is the Wall Angel test.  If you score less than a ‘2’ add in some mobility exercises to your daily routine.  Take a look at the following exercises aimed at restoring upright posture:




Workstation Solution Cover

Free eBook

Workstation Solution

Simple, practical advice for creating a healthier workspace. Includes:

  • Back-friendly chair set-up & sitting alternatives
  • Ergonomic tips for neck, shoulder and arm pain
  • The dangers of excessive sitting & what you can do to reduce your risk.








Reproduced from Liebenson. C., Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies


‘How to safely transition to a sit-stand desk’ was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more information about Steffen click here.


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