Standing desks and treadmill desks address a growing body of research that says sitting for extended periods of time is hazardous to your health. Sitting for too long can raise the risk of serious problems including cancer, diabetes and heart disease -- even for people who exercise regularly, researchers say. Standing or walking slowly while working may help counter the negative health effects of too much sitting. Long-term benefits aside, these activities can also make the workday more pleasant, resulting in less pain and improved mood, studies have found.
Even if you invest in a sit/stand desk, you'll still want to invest in a quality ergonomic chair to keep you comfortable and pain-free while you sit. Check out our report on office chairs for the best options. And if you're considering a standing desk or a treadmill desk because you're trying to commit to a healthier lifestyle, there are other tools such as fitness trackers, which we also cover elsewhere, to monitor your progress and help you stay on track with your goals.
Standing desks, also called sit/stand desks, can adjust to accommodate both sitting and standing, so you can move as you need to. Most have a small motor that raises and lowers the desktop, though there are some that are manually adjustable with a crank or some other mechanism. Standing desks are generally basic in design, with a simple frame and a large, flat working surface. Most don't have drawers and other storage options some standard desks have, but those with electronic controls often have digital displays to show the current height.
Standing desks can be quite pricey, but the Ergo Depot Jarvis (Est. $599 and up) is a top performer that won't break the bank, reviewers say. You can choose from either powder-coated MDF or bamboo for the $599 base price, or upgrade to laminate or hardwood. The standard desk isn't the biggest at 10 square feet, but 12.5- and 14.5-square-foot versions are also available for $69 and $119 more. Got a desktop you already like? You can purchase the Jarvis frame separately (Est. $490). A number of color choices are available for the desktop and frame.
The Jarvis adjusts from 23¼ inches to 48¾ inches -- roughly 50 inches with the top included -- at a rate of 1½ inches per second. It took about 20 seconds to go from the lowest to highest settings in tests by TheWirecutter.com. Testers Mark Lukach and Nathan Edwards say that's fairly typical for mid-range sit/stand desks like the Jarvis, but note that the desk really sets itself apart with rock-solid stability, even at its highest setting. In fact, they call the Jarvis "the sturdiest standing desk we've ever tested." Owners are almost as enthusiastic, though some say there is still a bit of minor wobbling at higher settings.
Reviewers say it's extremely easy to adjust the Jarvis. You don't have to hold down buttons during the adjustment process, and there are four programmable pre-sets that let you save certain standing or sitting positions. They also say the LCD display is easy to read. Directions were clear and made assembly easy, most report. Some, including Lukach and Edwards, recommend ErgoDepot's wire-management system (Est. $40) to tame power cords. The desk can handle a load of up to 350 pounds and comes with a seven-year warranty on all components.
Another reasonably priced option, the Uplift Desk (Est. $499) offers a bit more customization for anyone who wants more than just the basics. You can choose from laminate, bamboo, reclaimed wood or solid wood tops -- or use your own desktop and get the frame only (Est. $469). The desktop is available in an impressive 10 sizes from 6 to more than 16 square feet, and there are both rectangular and center-cut options. Three frame types and finishes, two kinds of keypads, a wire management system, a task light, several monitor arms and a desk drawer are among your choices, too. All of these upgrades inflate the desk's low base price, however.
The Uplift rises from 24½ to 50½ inches. Just like the Jarvis, and it does so at roughly 1½ inches a second, taking about 20 seconds to go from low to high. Motor noise is a relatively quiet 45 decibels. The Uplift notches a few more complaints than the Jarvis regarding stability, however: Brandon Widder of DigitalTrends.com noted a "slight wobble when sitting at max height" that made him cautious of placing tip-prone items on the elevated desk.
Like the Jarvis, the Uplift has four easy-to-use pre-sets that remember certain positions for sitting or standing. Assembly was simple, reviewers report. "Most Ikea items that I've purchased were tougher to assemble than the Uplift," one expert, Colt Agar of TheTechReviewer.com, notes. The desk can handle a load of up to 355 pounds and comes with a seven-year warranty. Agar notes some concerns about the durability of the laminate desktop, saying the edging was prone to cracking and the surface showed marks and scuffs easily.
If you love top-quality furniture and don't mind paying a bit more for it, the NextDesk Terra's (Est. $1,497) rich bamboo top and aircraft-grade aluminum frame makes it an appealing option. The Terra boasts ample working space: nearly 14 square feet for the standard desktop and just over 17 square feet if you opt for an extended size (Est. $297). You can choose from three colors of bamboo and five different aluminum finishes, though some options are upgrades. The Terra offers a slew of add-on options, such as a monitor arm (Est. $197), keyboard tray (Est. $347) and sound system (Est. $197). A power management system (Est. $99) offers outlets for your computer, phone and other gadgets.
Reviewers say the Terra's electronic height adjustment is quick, quiet and powerful, rising from 24 inches to 50½ inches at a rate of 1.7 seconds a second. Though this official speed is a bit slower than that of the Jarvis, The Wirecutter's Lukach and Edwards say it still bested the Jarvis in testing by rising from its lowest to highest settings in 15 seconds versus 20. The motor is stored in the legs of the desk, preserving the streamlined look. An EcoSleep function conserves power in standby, while an auto-protect feature prevents system overloads.
The Terra has an LED digital display that indexes a staggering 267 possible positions, making it especially ideal for multiple users. Reviewers say the soft-touch controls are intuitive and can be operated simply by feel. The wire management system features a series of grommets down the back of the desk's legs that are "incredibly easy to use," Lukach says. The desk can handle a load of up to 315 pounds. Lukach also reports that maintaining the desk is fairly simple and straightforward, and customer service is responsive and helpful, walking you through part replacements when necessary. The Terra is backed by a five-year warranty and 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
A treadmill desk can help you stay fit and energized while being productive. Treadmill desks are basically standing desks with a treadmill below that lets you walk at a slow pace with easy access to your working space. These are generally meant to operate at slow speeds -- most reviewers say the ideal speed for maintaining productivity is about 1½ to 2 miles per hour. However, treadmill desks aren't cheap, and they can be a space hog in a cramped office -- or worse, a noisy distraction.
While you won't be using it to train for a marathon, the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 (Est. $1,350) has ample working space and a solid build that make it a comfortable and durable choice for workers. Users say it's not noisy, but its large size will make its presence felt in a shared office space: Assembled, it takes up an area of about 6 feet by 4 feet. The desktop is made of durable laminate, but it's not extraordinary to look at. However, the desktop is plenty spacious, at 47 by 32 inches, which reviewers say fits two laptops, a phone, notebooks and other supplies easily.
The TR1200-DT5 is quiet enough that it won't disturb your co-workers, reviewers say. It adjusts manually from 36 to 52 inches, accommodating users from 4 feet 10 inches tall to 6 feet 8 inches tall. Most find it solidly built, saying it doesn't wobble while you work, and you can also move the treadmill out of the way if you want to use it as a standing desk. The maximum speed is 4 mph, with a default speed of 0.5 mph and a minimum speed of 0.4 mph. There are six impact-absorbing shock absorbers to keep you comfortable.
The TR1200-DT5 features a control panel that displays speed, distance and calories burned, so you can keep tabs on how many extra calories you burn during your workday. It also acts as a pedometer, displaying the number of steps you've taken. If that's not enough, this treadmill desk is Bluetooth-enabled for connecting with LifeSpan apps. A padded wrist guard helps keep you stable while you walk.
Reviewers say controls are intuitive, and the panel is at the front of the workspace so you can keep tabs on your progress without interrupting your workflow. However, you'll have to enlist someone's help to adjust the height of the TR1200-DT5, reviewers say. Finding the right height takes some trial and error, and the wrong height can make it difficult to work. Initial set-up is easy: The treadmill portion comes pre-assembled, so it's merely a matter of maneuvering the heavy unit into position under the desk. It accommodates up to 350 pounds, and the frame is backed by a lifetime warranty. The motor is covered for three years, parts for two years, and labor for one year.
If you're a runner with a home office, you may want a treadmill that can occasionally do double duty for work and fitness. The Proform Thinline Treadmill Desk (Est. $1,800) is up to the task, but its relatively large size means it's probably not a good choice for a shared office space: Its footprint is roughly 4½ by 6¾ feet. The plastic desktop is accessed by folding down the fitness console, but take note if you need ample workspace -- photos show that it will fit little more than a large laptop and a pad of paper.
What really sets the Thinline apart is that it's a true fitness treadmill. The speed adjusts from 0 to 12 mph, and you can also adjust incline from -3 percent to 12 percent, an option lacking on most treadmill desks. A cushioned treadmill deck reduces stress from impact, whether you walk or jog, but experts with TreadmillReviews.net say serious runners may want a model with better shocks. The desktop adjusts 14 inches up and down, and a 6-foot-tall reviewer reports using it comfortably. However, unlike the Lifespan TR1200-DT5, the desktop is integrated with the treadmill, raising the risk of annoying vibrations while working.
The Thinline's backlit control panel tracks mileage, speed, calorie burn, heart rate and time. It also features buttons that allow you to preset certain speeds, and 40 integrated workout apps. If you're short on space, the unit folds vertically and takes up just 12 inches at its thinnest point. There is also an integrated tablet holder, workout fan, and access to iFit technology that lets you simulate any Google Maps route. Note that iFit requires a subscription of fee of about $10 a month, however.
Reviewers say the Thinline's display is easy to use, and they like the easy-to-use preset buttons. One reviewer cautions that there's no guide to differentiate the pre-programmed workouts, however, and users must scroll through them one at a time. Set-up is a snap since the Thinline comes fully assembled. It accommodates up to 300 pounds, and the warranty is more generous than the Lifespan's: the frame and motor are backed by a lifetime warranty, while parts are covered for five years and labor for two years. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Got a standing desk you already like? The Lifespan TR800-DT3 (Est. $800) is a more compact, economical office treadmill meant to pair with your pre-existing desk. Like our top treadmill desk pick, the Lifespan TR1200-DT5, it's not meant for running. However, it is a very compact 5½ by 2½ feet, making this a more feasible choice for cramped workspaces.
The TR800-DT3 can go from 0.4 to 4 mph, though you can set the top speed to 2 mph if you prefer. There are six independent shocks to reduce impact on your joints. Most reviewers say the belt feels smooth and the motor is quiet, though a couple say it gets a bit noisier at higher speeds.
Most treadmills have an integrated console. Not so with the TR800-DT3, which has a console that is connected by a wire to the treadmill. Note that you'll need to save space on your desktop for the unit, which is roughly 12 ½ by 3 inches. The LED display records distance, steps, calories, time and speed. The treadmill can connect via Bluetooth to LifeSpan fitness apps, and there is an integrated USB port that lets you charge compatible devices.
Most reviewers say the TR800-DT3 is easy to use, especially once you figure out how to restart the treadmill at its previous speed (instructions are in the manual). Otherwise, default settings require you to scroll through speeds in 0.1 mph increments -- that's a lot of button-pushing. The treadmill comes fully assembled, so there's no lengthy setup. It accommodates up to 300 pounds. Lifespan cautions that the TR800-DT3 is designed for light use of up to three hours per day, so if you envision nonstop walking for an entire workday, you might want to upgrade to a sturdier model. The frame is backed by a lifetime warranty; the motor is covered for three years, parts for one year, and labor for one year.
Standing desk work stations rest on top of standard desks to raise computer monitors and keyboards to a standing-height level. They can be a great way to test out whether you want to stand while working without making a big financial commitment or getting rid of your existing desk. They usually cost less than standing desks, ranging from $100 to about $600. Note that standing desk work stations typically have a manual height adjustment, and most have a smaller range of possible height settings than sit/stand desks.
The Varidesk Pro (Est. $375) is a sturdy addition to any desk that easily allows users to stand and sit, reviewers say. It comes in three widths -- 30, 36 and 48 inches -- to accommodate one, two or more than two computer monitors, respectively. Regardless of width, all units are just under 27 inches deep. The Varidesk, which comes only in black, is a single, flat working surface; if you'd prefer a unit with a separate keyboard tray, you can upgrade to the Varidesk Pro Plus (Est. $395). Note that you'll need a good chunk of desk space to accommodate Varidesk Pro, which also weighs a whopping 50 pounds.
Varidesk Pro allows for 11 different height settings. The lowest allows Varidesk to sit about 5 inches higher than your existing desktop, while the tallest setting goes to about 15½ inches. It takes only 3 seconds to adjust Varidesk from its lowest to highest settings. Even at its tallest, Varidesk Pro is quite stable, reviewers say, with little in the way of worrisome wobbles. However, a few reviewers complain that their keyboards are too high in a sitting position, and some say Varidesk does not adjust high enough for users who are much over 6 feet tall.
Reviewers say it's quick and easy to use Varidesk's spring-loaded adjustment system -- simply pull the adjustment levers and push up or down to adjust. Some complain that the lack of a keyboard tray is annoying for anyone who uses a wired keyboard and mouse, as those must be moved manually. Varidesk comes fully assembled, with a weighted base that doesn't require the user to bolt anything down. The 30- and 36-inch Varidesk Pro can hold up to 35 pounds, while the 48-inch unit can hold 45 pounds. There is a limited one-year warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If the Varidesk Pro is too bulky, the Ergotron WorkFit-S (Est. $440) is worth a look. Available for both single and dual monitors, it has a relatively small footprint because the adjustable column clamps onto your desk -- there is no space-hogging base. It's available in black and white. A keyboard tray is included with the WorkFit-S, and additional upgrades include a work surface (Est. $90), tablet holder (Est. $30) and separate laptop tray (Est. $36).
The WorkFit-S adjusts roughly 23 inches from top to bottom, while the keyboard tray can adjust in an 18-inch range. A tall-user kit (Est. $21) allows the monitor to rise another 4 inches, which is a good thing -- some reviewers say the original height range isn't adequate for users over 6 feet. While most reviewers say the unit is quite stable, a couple say the keyboard tray and monitor shake a bit during intense typing, with Mark Lukach and Nathan Edwards of TheWirecutter.com calling the keyboard tray "especially flimsy."
Reviewers say the WorkFit-S is easy to adjust between sitting and standing positions, requiring only a gentle push on the components. However, several caution that putting it together can be tricky because the directions are only pictures without accompanying text -- "you end up doing some experimenting," notes one. The WorkFit-S can hold up to 24 pounds. It comes with a five-year warranty.
If you'd like to dip your toe into the world of standing desks as simply as possible, ReadyDesk (Est. $169) is an inexpensive but relatively elegant way to test the waters. Made of birch, the unit is 32 inches wide and 24½ inches deep -- enough space for a large monitor or two smaller ones. It comes with two shelves -- one for your monitor, and one for your keyboard and mouse. There are four integrated slots to manage power cables. An extra shelf (Est. $30) and six-pack of cable straps (Est. $3) are the only accessories. If you prefer a model with a laptop riser, it costs $10 more than the original ReadyDesk.
There are more than a dozen slots on the ReadyDesk where you can place the two shelves. The lowest is 6 inches from your desktop, while the highest is 21½ inches above it, comfortably accommodating workers from about 5-foot-3 to 6-foot-3. A cross brace on the back of the unit helps minimize shaking, and despite the unit's airy design, reviewers report few issues with stability.
Reviewers appreciate ReadyDesk's simple, easy-to-use design, saying it's a snap to slide the shelves into higher or lower slots. They also appreciate the "scandalously easy and quick" tool-free assembly. At 15 pounds, the unit is relatively light, but it can hold a whopping 75 pounds. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, but no warranty.
If ReadyDesk is still too much of an investment, you can make your own standing desk work station for around $20 using a few common items from Ikea: an $8 Lack side table, a $3 Ekby Laiva shelf (or similar), and two Ekby Valter brackets ($4 each). Place the Lack table on your desk, and find a comfortable standing typing height. Screw the brackets into the table legs at that height, and rest the shelf on top. Your monitor goes on top of the Lack, and your keyboard and mouse go on the shelf. Of course, you'll have to remove the whole unit to sit down, and you won't have a range of adjustable heights. However, for $22 you might be willing to put up with those inconveniences.
There are several expert reviews of sit/stand desks, treadmill desks, and standing desk work stations. The best, from TheWirecutter.com, ConsumerReports.org and TreadmillReviews.net are highly comparative and may involve hands-on testing. Roundups and buying guides from Lifehacker.com, DigitalTrends.com, Shape.com and GadgetReview.com were helpful, as were in-depth product reviews from experts at Digital Trends and TheTechReviewer.com. Consumer reviews are trickier to find in this category, but Amazon.com is particularly helpful for treadmill desks and standing desk work stations. Retailer websites including ErgoDepot.com and HumanSolution.com are a better bet for owners' standing desk reviews.