Standing or walking desks may help you live longer
Standing desks are the latest trend in the startup culture of cities like New York, San Francisco or anywhere in Silicon Valley. These desks emerged in response to a growing body of research that indicates that a sedentary lifestyle -- specifically, sitting for extended periods of time -- is hazardous to your health.
There are dozens of articles citing research that sitting all day is bad for your health. When you add up the time you spend sitting at your desk at the office, the time spent in the car driving to and from the office, and the time you spend sitting at home, watching television, eating dinner or doing other sedentary activities, it's not difficult to exceed 15 hours a day sitting, according to Lifehacker. Experts say that even dedicated exercisers are at risk, calling them the "active sedentary," since they may sit too much in between hard workouts.
Sit-to-stand desks are height-adjustable desks. They can be raised or lowered to the proper ergonomic height for your stature, and they can be lowered fully when you need to take a break and sit down for a while. Sit-to-stand desks generally offer a range of heights between 23 and 52 inches, adjustable either manually or electronically. Sit-to-stand 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 desk frames are not height adjustable, but also cost much less. They're generally constructed of aluminum or stainless steel, with desk tops made from of a range of woods, laminates and other materials. Stand-up desks vary widely in price, from under $1,000 to $4,000 and up. Some popular standing computer desks have a base price, but offer a variety of add-on features you can choose during purchase that add to the overall cost.
You'll also want to invest in a quality anti-fatigue mat. To prevent sore feet and legs, especially in your early days of standing, you need a good standing desk mat, which provides additional support for your foot arches to reduce fatigue and back pain from extended periods of standing. Standing desk mats range in price from about $40 to $90 or more, and in this category, you get what you pay for; the more expensive mats get much more positive feedback in reviews than their cheaper counterparts.
Another standing option is a desktop add-on. These units are placed on top of a standard desk to raise a computer monitor and keyboard to a standing-height level. They cost less, ranging from a few hundred dollars to about $600. Desktop add-ons typically have a manual height adjustment, and most have a smaller range of possible height settings than full standing-desk configurations.
Since you'll likely use the seated position at least part of the time, investing in an ergonomic office chair is also a good idea. Check out our report on office chairs for the best options in your price range.
A treadmill desk helps you stay fit and energized while being productive. Having the option to sit or stand while you work is great, but what if there's a way to get even more health benefits out of your time spent at your office desk? That's where treadmill desks come in, which are basically standing desks with a treadmill base unit that sits underneath the desk area so you can walk at a slow pace with easy access to your working space. Treadmill desks can operate at speeds ranging from 0.4 miles per hour to 4 miles per hour, although most reviewers say the ideal speed for maintaining productivity is about 1.5 or 2 miles per hour.
Treadmill desks range in price from about $800 to $1,500 and up. Like standing desks, treadmill desks usually offer optional add-ons like custom power strips, which enhance functionality but also add to the upfront cost, so you'll have to weigh their usefulness for your personal lifestyle in deciding whether these features are worth it.
If you're considering a standing desk or a walking desk because you're trying to lose weight or commit to a healthier lifestyle, there are other tools that work well with these desks, such as fitness trackers, to monitor your progress and help you stay on track with your goals. Check out our report on fitness trackers for the best gadget that suits your lifestyle.
ConsumerSearch analyzes dozens of expert reviews and hundreds of owner-written reviews to identify the best standing desks, treadmill desks and standing desk mats. Editors evaluate features and costs, quality of design and construction, usability, and other key considerations to determine the standout products in each category.
Best Standing Desks
A standing desk is a hot accessory for the modern workspace
Standing desks come in a few different styles. A set-height standing desk isn't adjustable; it's merely a raised version of a standard desk. A sit-to-stand desk offers the adjustable-height feature, and we generally found that the top-rated standing desks fall into this category. There are also a few desktop add-ons that get positive feedback; these models are designed to sit on top of your existing desk to create a raised working platform.
The NextDesk Terra (Est. $1,500) is consistently praised in reviews for its durable construction and sustainable design. Making use of quality materials to craft a natural bamboo desktop and durable aluminum frame, the NextDesk Terra appeals to environmental enthusiasts and those who like to incorporate renewable materials into their home décor.
The Terra has a broad height range, from 24 to 50.5 inches, and it raises fully with a smooth, quick motorized motion in just 1.7 seconds. Three programmable height settings mean you can pre-set your preferred height for sitting and standing, or it can be used to quickly adjust the height between multiple users. Even if you set the height from scratch every time, the push-button controls are easy to operate and an LED display shows the current height -- with an index of all 267 possible height positions.
The bamboo top comes with custom size, shape and color options, and there are other add-on features available, such as a vanity cover (Est. $150) to conceal loose wires, a monitor arm (Est. $195) and a keyboard tray (Est. $350). Depending on the size of the desktop you choose, the Terra provides between 12 and 18 square feet of working space. The NextDesk Terra is backed by a three-year warranty.
If design aesthetics and sustainability aren't your top priorities, the UpDesk UpWrite (Est. $1,200) costs a few hundred dollars less, and has some standout features of its own. The UpWrite's claim to fame is the dry-erase desktop surface, which can be used with either wet- or dry-erase markers, both of which clean up with ease. This is a cool feature if you collaborate with co-workers and need to draw diagrams or sketches to visually illustrate your ideas, or if you simply like to doodle or scribble notes while you work.
The UpWrite's desktop has a curved, convex shape in the front, so you're actually standing a bit closer to the far end of the desk while still maintaining more usable working space. It's about the same size as the NextDesk Terra, with approximately 12 square feet of desktop space. Its height range is also similar to the Terra, ranging from 25.5 to 50.5 inches. It uses an electric motor to power the adjustment, with a push-button control, although it takes about 30 seconds to rise from the lowest position to the highest position. Both the NextDesk Terra and the UpDesk UpWrite are quiet, however, so you won't disturb co-workers with a loud motor throughout the day.
The UpWrite supports up to 300 pounds, and the Terra has a slightly higher weight rating of 315 pounds. The UpWrite has a longer warranty, five years as opposed to the Terra's three years. UpDesk makes several variations on the standing desk, including the UpDesk PowerUp (Est. $1,000), which is essentially the same as the UpWrite without the dry-erase top, and the UpDesk CrankUp (Est. $700), which has a manual hand-crank adjustment instead of the electronic feature.
There are dozens of other options among sit-to-stand desks, and most have the same basic form and function. OfficeSnapshots.com recommends the Steelcase Airtouch (Est. $1,440), which adjusts from 26 to 43 inches, about 7 inches lower than the Terra's and UpWrite's maximum height. It has a sleek, modern look, with a crisp white desktop and a single pedestal constructed of aluminum. It can only accommodate up to 150 pounds, however, and the height adjustment is manual, although easy to operate with an ergonomic lift handle. It has a separate keyboard shelf and comes in four different work surface shapes and configurations. The work surface and base are backed by a 10-year warranty, and the lifting column is backed by a five-year warranty.
If sustainable materials and aesthetic appeal are top priorities for you, the NextDesk Terra is worth its high price tag, reviewers say. But if you're more focused on function than form, the UpDesk UpWrite offers similar features and ease of use -- and the dry-erase top is a nice added bonus.