Standing or treadmill desks may be good for your health
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
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
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
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
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
While you won't be using it to train for a marathon, the (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
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 (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 (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
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.
desk work stations
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 (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 (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 (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
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
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.
The $22 Ikea
standing desk hack
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.
Expert & User Review Sources
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.