Krista Bugden
Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for 4 years.

Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Office Employee is sitting on bench in modern office

We understand that sitting all day can be harmful, but just jumping into standing for long hours without proper research can lead to major drawbacks in the long run. Life, in general, is about balance, making sure every activity is completed appropriately without overdoing anything. Just as much as you sit at your desk, it is important to know when to stand as well.

What is The Ideal Ratio For Sitting and Standing at Desk?

 man and a woman are talking about sitting and standing at the office table

With increased awareness about the dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle, more people are becoming aware of the benefits of standing vs. sitting. They are:

  • better focus,
  • improved posture,
  • better metabolism,
  • overall good health, and better productivity.

The overall benefits of standing desk vs. sitting cannot be overemphasized.

Different studies have taken place, and most outcomes showed that 3:1 was an ideal ratio, but relatively recent research (2015) has suggested that 1:1 and 1:3 will proffer better health benefits.

It might be difficult to understand how to get all the benefits from your sit-stand desk or the optimal standing desk height, just by reading the user manual. Transitioning from sitting to a standing desk should be done appropriately. The goal is not to completely stop sitting and standing 24 hours, 7 days a week. The ultimate goal is to start moving more and sitting less.

Maximizing the Ideal Sitting and Standing Desk Ratio: Factors To Consider

Colleagues talking about factors to consider

We already know the benefits of standing vs. sitting at work, but immediately switching from sitting to standing desk completely or to stand all the time will cause adverse effects. It is known that doing too much of something that is supposed to be good will ultimately make it turn bad. The main issue is discovering the right combination of standing vs. sitting at work, which will provide the most optimum result.

#1: Age

Age is an important factor that must be considered when you’re trying to find the right sitting to standing desk ratio. It is more difficult for the elderly to remain standing while working than it is for younger individuals, because of natural energy level changes. According to guidelines by Richard W.  Bunch at a conference for ergonomics, the ideal sitting standing desk ratio is:

  • Individuals over 40 years are advised to use the 3:2 ratio, sitting for 30 minutes and standing for 20 minutes
  • Individuals under 40 years can utilize the 1:1 ratio, sitting for 30 minutes and standing for 30 minutes.

#2: Physical Fitness

Physical fitness, health, and agility must always be considered when finding the ideal sitting standing desk ratio for any individual. Your physical health is a huge factor that may affect both comfort and pain levels when it comes to the amount of time spent on your feet. Generally, an individual that is physically fit will be able to stand for a longer period before feeling any discomfort, unlike an individual who is not fit. A few physical factors to be considered other than fitness include:

  • Ergonomics: At the end of the day, the goal is maintaining proper posture and making sure your spine is loaded properly. The pressure will not be applied to only one side of the spine disks, but to all sides. Making sure that the monitor, mouse, keyboard, and other pieces of equipment are placed correctly. Also, investing in the best sit and stand desk will go a long way in helping to keep joints in a neutral position.
  • Movements: The importance of moving around frequently cannot be stressed enough. The main goal is to move more. Not moving will deprive your body of the circulation needed during the standing period. Oxygen is delivered to your joints and muscles when you move, so engaging in regular movements while standing is necessary.

#3: Transition Frequency

Another factor that must be considered when figuring out the appropriate ratio for sitting to standing is transitions. This is very important, as it is the frequency at which an individual changes positions. An increase in discomfort has been realized when individuals transition more frequently.

Tips on Switching from Sit to Stand Desk: Measures Taken To Make The Transition Easier

Young man standing at his adjustable office desk

In essence, the main goal of the standing desk vs. sitting is to move more and sit less. The minimum standing time you can take when at work, is from 5 to 20 minutes every hour. Professionals advise that 50% of your work day (approximately 4 hours) should be spent standing, and 80% (approximately 6 hours) is the maximum time you should take.

#1: Sit Down When You Need To

Although the ratio of sitting to standing is around 1:3 and 1:1, it is advised that you break down the times to smaller sessions to help prevent pains and discomfort. The ratio, when broken down, means that your goal should be to stand for one hour for every hour you sit or stand for 3 hours for every hour you sit. Breaking it down into smaller sessions would be, making 30 minutes intervals between positions. This will allow for optimum result and decreased discomfort.

#2: Don’t Rush Into It

Your body needs some time to adjust to the new changes. If you have been living a sedentary lifestyle for a long time, it might be difficult to make the change instantly. Making slow transitions and gradually working your way towards standing for long hours is the best way to go. Start with short goals like standing for 5 – 15 minutes and sitting for 45 minutes, each hour. After this, you can slowly increase the time by 5 minutes weekly, until you achieve your goal. Small changes like standing while working on your computer and sitting when writing are good ways to begin  from a sitting to a stathis process.

#3: Posture Is Key

In addition to standing for long hours on end, it is important to maintain good posture. Implementing standing workstation ergonomics at your place of work is the best way to go for optimum health benefits. You can incorporate an ergonomic chair to your standing desk to make sure you maintain proper posture when sitting. Also, it is recommended to maintain a neutral neck, a 90-degree elbow, shoulders back, and wrists straight, as these are all parts of the ergonomic equation.

#4: Movements Are The Ultimate Goal

There are different ways by which the hours can be broken down for decreased comfort. At the end of the day, maintaining a static position will cause more harm than good. You may experience body pains and sore feet. Movement is key when standing for long periods. Changing your position or investing in anti-fatigue mats to help cushion the feet are good routes to take.


Krista Bugden
Krista Bugden worked as a Rehab Exercise Expert at a physiotherapist clinic in Ottawa, Canada for 4 years. She has an Honours Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of Ottawa. She uses her extensive knowledge in this area to educate others through well-researched, scientific, and informative articles. Her passions include helping others and inspiring each person she meets to get the most out of their life.