standing desk back pain

How long should you stand at your desk?

Cornerstone Health & Fitness Standing Desk

We all know that a sedentary lifestyle, associated with long hours sitting at a desk, can lead to a lot oh health problems, like diabetes, obesity, heart diseases or back pain. This is why more and more office workers are switching to standing desks, that allow you to alternate between sitting and standing and offer multiple health benefits.

A professor from the University of Waterloo says he has the answer. Although experts have advised for years that people should stand for 15 minutes every hour, according to the professor, ideally, people should do it for at least 30 minutes per hour to really enjoy the healthy benefits. 

Professor Jack Callaghan, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Kinesiology, has found, using advanced ergonomic and health risk calculations, that the ideal sit-stand ratio lies somewhere between 1:1 and 1:3. “Historically what has been preached is a three to one ratio, but we found the opposite will give you the benefits of not sitting as much, but not inducing problems from standing”, explains professor Callaghan. This means that a person should stand between 30 and 45 minutes every hour.

Related: 5 Best Electric Standing Desks For Every Budget

Standing at your desk too much can cause back pain

Although standing helps improve your health, if you do it for too long you run the risk doing exactly the opposite. Professor Jack Callaghan’s study showed that prolonged periods of standing can lead to lower back pain. Approximately half of his subjects started complaining of back pain after standing for 2 consecutive hours. “Sitting has been demonized in the media, so people’s gut reaction is to try and stand all the time instead,” said Callaghan. “There is no question a sedentary lifestyle negatively impacts health, but you can’t just all of a sudden take away people’s chairs because it’s going to cause pain. And it’s not the pain that will go away,” he added.

Related: Top 5 Best Standing Desk Converters In 2020

To prevent any kind of pain, says Callaghan, you have to move often. It’s the same concept as dehydration during exercise,” he says. “If you wait until you’re thirsty it’s too late. If you wait until you have pain before you change positions, it’s too late. This pain is hard to get rid of, so you have to be moving and changing positions before it starts.” 

Moreover, the study participants who developed back pain while standing were three times more likely to experience chronic back problems later.

Related: 10 Essential Accessories for Standing Desks

How to get rid of the back pain caused by standing desks

Although it’s hard to get rid of the standing induced pain, certain core exercises can help lower it. Professor Callaghan’s study found 3 simple exercises that helped the participants decrease their lower back pain:

  1. arm and leg extensions performed while quadruped (on hands and knees)
  2. planking and reverse planking
  3. side planking with weight supported by the feet and forearm


Using a standing desk for too long can lead to back pain, but if you’re careful and not over do it, then switching to a standing desk can be extremely healthy. If you don’t know how to pick one, check out our guide on buying the perfect standing desk for you.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Buying An Anti-Fatigue Mat

Related: How To Choose The Best Balance Board For Your Standing Desk

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