I’ve been using a standing desk for nearly 5 years now. I love it and can’t ever imagine going back to being a sitter. I stand virtually all day, with a few breaks here and there for meetings and occasionally when I just feel like “cheating.” Based on my time as a stander, I have found a number of things to be helpful in creating a better standing experience.
1) A Good Anti-Fatigue Mat- This is my #1 tip for anyone who plans to do a lot of standing. Get a good anti-fatigue mat. There are lots of mats out there. I think the Standee Mat is the best mat on the market for the money. Most mats on the market are ¾” thick, but the Standee Mat is 7/8” in thick. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but you would be surprised at the increase in comfort that the extra 1/8” makes, particularly when you consider the cumulative impact over the course of the day. For the last couple of years, I have been using the Standee MAT-XL which is 70” long. What I like about it is that it encourages movement since I can walk around when I am on the phone or talking to someone in my office. I feel like it gives me more freedom and feel less confined that when I use a smaller mat.
I’ve heard some people say that they don’t use an anti-fatigue mat because they alternate between sitting and standing all day, and they don’t want to have to bend over and move the mat out of the way. Even if you only plan to stand for half the day, I think you will find that an anti-fatigue mat can make an enormous difference in your standing experience. For people who are concerned about having to bend over and move the mat out of the way a few times a day, keep in mind that unless you have a medical condition, bending over is actually good for you, and it’s not a very big deal.
2) Get a Lacrosse Ball to Work the Bottom of Your Feet- I like to stand on my mat either in bare feet or in socks. I have a lacrosse ball that I use on my mat. Throughout the day I simply step on the ball and move it around, focusing on different parts of my foot. You don’t have to be an expert in foot reflexology to know that various parts of your foot are connected to different parts of your body. Rolling your foot over the lacrosse ball is relaxing and is helpful in releasing tight spots. Lacrosse balls are pretty hard so you can control the amount of pressure you place on the bottom of your foot, depending on how deep you want to go.
3) Use a Lacrosse Ball to Work Hip Flexors- I have particularly tight hip flexors so I like to use the same lacrosse to help loosen my hip flexors. I generally do this in two ways. I either place the ball between the edge of my desk and my hip flexor and then lean in with my weight and move the ball back and forth across the hip flexor tendon. I can do this when I am just reading emails of talking on the phone. This works if you are using a desktop standing desk like the Standee Classic or Standee Classic-XL. If you have a freestanding height-adjustable desk like the Standee Flex or another similar style desk, you can use the lacrosse ball against a wall, working the hip flexor tendon in the same manner.
4) Use a Lacrosse Ball on Upper Back and Shoulders- I also like to use the lacrosse ball on my upper back to relieve stress and get at any tight spots. Unless you want to get on the floor in your office, you need a wall to work your upper back with a lacrosse ball. It is similar to trigger point massage. You can apply pressure with your weight by leaning into the wall. You can keep the ball in one place once you have isolated a tight spot or move the ball back and forth with small movements to try to unstick the tight tissue.
5) Use a TheraCane on Tight Spots in Your Back, Neck and Shoulders- I learned about TheraCanes from my physical therapist when I was rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery. A TheraCane is a cane-shaped plastic device that is designed to allow you to apply pressure to various parts of your body to release tight spots. It can be used as a substitute for a lacrosse ball or in conjunction with it. I like to keep one by my desk so I can work the tight spots in my upper back while I am reading emails or doing a conference call via speaker phone. Sometimes I also use it on my hip flexors or other body parts depending on what feels tight.
6) Stretch Your Calves with a Standing Calf Stretch- Sometimes my calves get tight after standing for a while. One stretch is like is a standing calf stretch. I do this stretch by leaning against my desk and with my front leg bent and my back leg straight with my heel on the ground. I generally hold the stretch for just 15 seconds or so and then switch legs.
7) Use a Large Exercise Ball- I keep a large exercise ball in my office. Some people like to use them for sitting, but I like to use mine for stretching and changing up my standing position. You can make up your own positions, but the way I use it most frequently is by placing the ball to one side of me and resting one knee with a bent leg on top of the ball. This helps me stretch my quads and also keeps me active and allows me to change things up throughout the day.
If you are feeling adventuresome, you can use the exercise ball for a lot of other things throughout the day. I like rolling around on my stomach or back to keep loose.
8) Use Your Anti-Fatigue Mat to Stretch Your Quads- If there are any parts of my legs that get tight from standing, it’s my quads. Once or twice a day, I like to kneel on my cushy Standee Mat and then sit back on my heels. It’s very simple, but it gives my quads a great stretch.
9) Use a Squeeze Ball- I keep a squeeze ball on my desk. I haven’t found huge benefits in using a squeeze ball, but I like to use it periodically throughout the day just to relieve tension and stay relaxed. It probably helps to build grip strength as well. I wouldn’t call it an essential piece of equipment, but I like it as part of my overall bag of tricks that I keep in my office.
10) Sit On a Rolled Towel in Your Car- This is a trick I learned from my physical therapist. The idea is basically to raise your hips so your hips are tilted forward when you are sitting. I have tried a number of tilted seats and various cushion products. A lot of them can probably help, but I find that a rolled up towel gets the job done and is a cheap solution. Elevating your hips when you are sitting is a good thing to do anytime, but it is most convenient for me to do while driving, particularly if I have a long drive. It even helps just on my commute to work. If I get to work with loose hips, I have an easier time standing all day.