Standing Desk

Should you alternate between sitting and standing at work? What are the pros and cons of a standing desk?

For me the answer is a definite YES!  As I will discuss further on, remaining in one position for a lengthy period, whether sitting or standing, can have negative effects on your overall health. Workers in South Africa and across the globe have found that using a height adjustable standing desk gives them the freedom to alternate between sitting and standing while they work.

I believe that a balanced approach is needed where you combine sitting, standing and movement at work. I use this combination to keep my mind and body healthy!

When you use a standing desk, there is no “correct” ratio of sitting to standing – it will differ from one person to the next. Many ergonomic experts recommend standing about 5-15 minutes out of every hour when using a sit-stand desk. One study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine recommends that it is ideal to move, stand, and take breaks from sitting for a total of at least 2 hours in an 8 hour work day. Remember that standing time includes other movement during the day, for example trips to the coffee machine, bathroom or walk around the office.

My story….

I am a trained Office Ergonomic Risk Facilitator and understand the importance of ergonomics in the workplace. I have done extensive online research on sitting versus standing at work, and was quite surprised by the varied perspectives from bloggers and experts, especially as far as standing is concerned. Some maintain that standing at work is the “NEW BEST THING”, while for others it is a big “NO-NO”. These varied perspectives prompted me to write this blog to share my own personal experience. 

June 2020

In June 2020 I sustained a pinched nerve in my lower back and I was in agony for 3 months. The pain in my lower vertebrae and surrounding muscles filtered into my hips, back, buttock and legs. It was so severe that I couldn’t sit still for longer than 30 minutes without moving. Fortunately, at work I was testing our HiLo electric height adjustable standing desk, which thankfully I got to keep. By using the desk’s memory function, a simple touch of a button allowed me to change my working position from sitting to standing.

To alleviate the pain, I began to stand more at work and also increased the amount of movement in my daily routine. With no fixed pattern, I continually alternated from a sitting, to a standing position and walked around as soon as I felt any pain in my body. Although I had been advised to do certain exercises to stabilise my spine, I simply couldn’t do them due to the severe pain and discomfort I was experiencing. Because I knew that movement was vital to the healing process, I would take a slow walk to my colleagues situated in another building, and then back to my office. This daily routine of alternate sittingstanding and walking, drastically reduced my pain levels and enabled me to regain full fitness. To this day, I still follow the same daily routine.

1. What are the negative effects of prolonged sitting and standing?


  • Fatigue, which promotes a bad sitting posture.
  • Poor blood circulation.
  • Often results in skeletal and muscular disorders like misalignment of the spine, muscle tension in the neck, back and shoulders.
  • Poor concentration.


  • Causes lower limb fatigue.
  • Cramping and swelling of the legs.
  • Lower back pain.
  • Increased pressure on your knees, hips and feet.
  • Varicose veins and/or inflammation of veins.
  • Misalignment of the spine due to shifting weight onto one leg.
  • Poor concentration.
HiLo height adjustable electronic sit-stand desk
HiLo height adjustable standing desk

2. What are the advantages of alternating between sitting and standing?

  • Intervertebral discs are kept in a better shape.
  • Better alignment of the spine.
  • Continually changing position reduces the strain in the lower back.
  • Reduction of varicose veins.
  • Improved concentration.
  • Increased muscle activity and blood circulation.
  • Higher energy consumption (calories) as you alternate from sitting down to standing up, and vice versa.

3. What is the correct posture for sitting and standing?

When you work either standing or sitting, certain ergonomic workstation settings should be the same.

    • Your adjustable standing desk should always be at elbow height and your elbows should be bent at approximately 900.
    • When sitting your feet should be flat on the ground. Your knees should be slightly below the level of your hips.
    • When standing, one leg should be elevated. Rest the elevated leg on a footrest and frequently alternate legs to shift your body weight.
    • Adjust you monitor directly in front of you and at eye level height.
    • Ensure that your shoulders are relaxed.
    • Make sure your wrists are in a neutral position.
    • Use an ergonomic chair or orthopedic chair when you sit.
    • Use an anti-fatigue mat when you are standing.
    • What is the correct height for my desk, computer monitor and office chair?

4. Exercise and Movement

Due to the disadvantages of prolonged sitting and standing, adding simple office stretches and exercises to your day can reduce stress, increase energy, and improve your overall mood and creativity. To reduce the health risks of sitting, it is important to keep your body and mind healthy by taking time to move and exercise.

5. What types of height adjustable standing desks are available in South Africa?

There are 3 basic types of standing desks available:

Sit-Stand Desk Converter

Manual Height Adjustable Desks

Electric Height Adjustable Desks

a.  Sit-Stand Desk Converters

KM003 height adjustable standing desk converter
Sit-Stand Desk Converter

Standing desk converters, are placed on top of your existing (fixed-height) desk. They are designed to convert a normal desk into a sit-stand desk.

They can be adjusted up and down to ensure the monitor, keyboard and mouse are at your ideal standing height.

Pros and Cons of standing desk converters

  • They are mobile and can easily be moved between your home and work office.
  • Inexpensive. They are the most affordable option.
  • They have a small working surface area, particularly when standing.

There are 2 basic options available:

    • Pneumatic or gas-assisted – The upwards height adjustment is aided by a pneumatic lift function and no manual lifting is required. However, some effort is required when lowering the standing desk converter.
    • Non-electric counterbalance option – A counterbalance weight makes it easier to change the height of the converter.

b. Manual height adjustable standing desks

There are 2 basic options when it comes to ergonomic manual height adjustable desks. The first uses a simple crank, and the second, a pneumatic lifter to raise and lower the desk.

manual height adjustable standing desk
Crank operated height adjustable desk

Crank operated standing desk

    • The crank handle requires greater effort to raise and lower the desk.
    • Slower to adjust.
    • Due to the time and effort involved in changing the height of the desk, there is a risk that it will be adjusted less frequently.
    • More affordable than gas assisted and motorised options.

Pneumatic lift standing desk

  • Pneumatic height adjustment is similar to your office chair.
  • Easier to adjust than a cranking desks.
  • No manual lifting is required due to the pneumatic powered mechanism. However, more effort is necessary to lower the desk as your body weight is required to press down on the desk.
  • More affordable than electric desks.
pneumatic sit/stand height adjustable desk
Pneumatic lift standing desk

c. Electric standing or height adjustable desks

These height adjustable standing desks are freely available in South Africa. The electronic control system enables you to change the desk height within seconds at the simple touch of a button.

HiLo adjustable desk control panel
Electric height adjustable standing desk

Pros and Cons of Electric standing desks

  • Typically you can store pre-set heights so one or more people can save their settings for both sitting and standing. For example, ladies that alternate between heels and flat shoes, or operators that take up semi sit/stand positions where sit/stand stools are being used.
  • Certain models can be operated via an App on a phone or tablet.
  • Some models have electric motors in each leg and can accommodate heavier loads. Their operation is generally smooth and quiet.
  • Models with single electric motors (one leg only) will struggle with heavier loads and tend to be noisy.
  • Convenient and easy to operate.
  • Electric standing desks are the most expensive option

6. Factors to consider when using an adjustable standing desk

If you are considering buying a height adjustable standing desk in South Africa, be sure that you keep the following factors in mind:

  • Consider using a padded anti-fatigue mat when standing as it reduces strain in your legs. Some types are contoured to encourage movement.
  • Shift positions frequently and move around to avoid fatigue.
  • Use a footrest. Stand on one leg and rest your other leg on a footrest. Alternate legs regularly.
  • If your work allows, listen to music while standing as the body will naturally move to the rhythm of the music.

7. Conclusion

Based on my personal experience, to improve your overall physical and mental wellbeing, change your working position often (sitting to standing and back again), and include frequent movement in your daily work routine. 

Invest in an ergonomic height adjustable standing desk but do your homework as there are many types available in South Africa. In my opinion, an electric height adjustable desk like the HiLo, is definitely the answer! These desks enable you to quickly, easily and frequently change from a sitting to a standing position during your working day. This, together with regular movement, will ensure you to achieve the greatest benefit to your health and wellbeing.

Because of the effort involved in using a manual height adjustable standing desk, it is unlikely that you will adjust it as often, and so the overall benefit will be less. This is particularly the case with crank handle height adjustable desks.

If you have any medical condition that may not be conducive to standing or exercises, then seek the advice of your health professional.

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