Why Your Gaming Desk Should be a Standing Desk
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Why Your Gaming Desk Should be a Standing Desk
With the video game industry topping 100 billion dollars in revenue in 2017, it’s little wonder that standing desk manufacturers are trying to carve out their slice of the pie by creating “gaming desks,” which are, for the most part, standing desks with decals on the work surface, or speakers built into the desk. But do gamers really need standing desks? In terms of health, the answer is a definite yes. The hours that gamers spend sitting in front of their PCs are just as harmful as the hours spent sitting in a cubicle. While we primarily focus on the office environment, the health benefits of standing and NEAT don’t stop when you clock out. From that perspective, there is no reason why gamers should not benefit from height adjustable desks in the same way that everyone else does.
That said, gaming and work are on opposite ends of the mental spectrum. Gaming is recreation and work is, well, work. Gamers may hesitate to stand for fear of sacrificing their comfort (some of our gamer friends whom we consulted when writing this article would not even consider standing while gaming). Most people want to lead healthier lives—few want to sacrifice the quality of their free time to do so.
But what if there were a reason beyond the health benefits and the reduction in chance of disease that comes with standing desks? What if standing desks could also improve the gaming experience itself, so that it wouldn’t feel like you were sacrificing your “me time,” but actually improving it? While it’s important to note that there is no conclusive evidence here, all of our preliminary research points to a better gaming experience while standing, for a variety of reasons.
Why Play Standing?
First off, let’s address the obvious: too much of anything can be a bad thing and sitting is no exception (lying down, by the way, is just as bad as sitting). If you do the math, the time you spend sitting in a day during meals, commute, office hours, and leisure time (watching TV or playing video games) can easily add up to 10 hours. The solution is to spend less time in a chair. For many, this means switching from a traditional desk to an active workstation like standing or treadmill desk. And for those unable to get a standing desk at work, you can slash sitting time by solid 2 or 3 hours by instead converting your gaming desk to a standing desk.
Standing offers proven physical benefits that include reduced back, neck, and shoulder pain, improved blood circulation, increased energy expenditure, and better posture. These should all lead to healthier and happier gamers.
And Better Focus.
A lot of people who tried gaming while standing share an all too similar story: once they stood up, they felt present and engaged in the game. This certainly has been our experience while testing at the office (with a balance board for good measure). Upon shifting from sitting to standing, we would immediately feel more connected to the screen and more focused on the task at hand. Being alert might actually improve your performance if you’re into competitive games that require focus and quick reaction.
However, the higher the dexterity requirements of your game of choice, the more you may feel out of your element when first trying to game while standing. We know that any minor change in a gaming set-up can throw you off—standing is a major change. For this reason, we recommend starting off with turn-based strategies or similar genres of games that aren’t too demanding in terms of reaction time before moving on to quicker games. A perfect example would be online chess, where the addition of a treadmill to the equation can even improve win percentage.
Of course, this is all observational. The studies have not yet been conducted to correlate video game performance of sitting vs. standing. And studies that measure pure reaction time found that there were no significant difference between the two positions. It would be premature to claim that body position has a measurable impact on performance. But it feels like it does. It simply feels good go from sitting to standing, even while gaming—and for some gamers, that alone should be a strong argument.
If you’re skeptical that your scores will go up, you can always take comfort in the fact that you’re burning up to 16.7% more calories while you stand. All of the tiny actions you take while standing, such as shifting your weight from one leg to the other, add up and burn calories. For more information, check out our article on NEAT—the term for burning calories without exercising.
Ergonomic Problems and Solutions
When planning your ultimate gaming desk, you may want to switch to a wireless headset. PC Gamer’s Evan Lahti noticed that standing prompts him to be more physically active either due to slightly adjusting his standing position or celebrating a win. Besides, if you have a tower and not a laptop, your case will have your headset cable running all the way up from the back of the desk and going wireless takes care of the problem.
Other changes to your setup will have to take place in order to make your standing gaming more comfortable and enjoyable. You might notice your feet start hurting after a while or you’re leaving a dent in a carpet where you stand, consider investing in an ergonomic anti-fatigue mat that will help you not only prolong standing time but also make it painless. If you need more space either on your desk or underneath it, a CPU holder will free it up for you. Just make sure your desk can handle additional 20-30 lbs.
Kirk Hamilton of Kotaku noted that his Workfit-S unit brought his monitor too close to his face, which made him feel more connected to the happenings on the screen, but is less than optimal for your eyes. While the reporter took breaks every time his eyes started to get tired, you may prevent fatigue by installing your monitor on a flexible monitor arm that will help you control distance, tilt, and height of the screen.
Monitor height and distance are important ergonomic factors to consider when switching to a standing desk. You don’t want to strain your neck looking down at your laptop screen, so you better prepare to invest in a separate monitor and a mount (another advantage is to see the game in all its detail and beauty). The latter allows you to adjust the height, tilt, and the distance way easier than a fixed stand or shelf does.
A keyboard tray is optional at this point, as you can easily rest your elbows on a full standing desk. Mounting one can be tricky anyway due to crossbars on most height adjustable desks, but if you want to experience true ergonomic bliss, where your shoulders are always level and your wrists are perfectly neutral, check out our article on installing a keyboard tray on a standing desk.[link]
How to Choose a Standing Gaming Desk
We’ve composed this checklist to help you ensure you know what to focus on for a standing gaming desk in particular:
-Stability. You don’t want to feel any shakiness when you’re hammering away at your keyboard while your desk is at its highest point. Stability is even more important for gamers than normal workers, because shakiness could be detrimental to your performance. This is one of the most important qualities that cheaper desks lack. If you’re on the taller side, we’d recommend trying to get your hands on a desk to test it at the height you’d be using it, ensuring that it’s adequately stable.
-Fast transit speed. Going from sitting to standing and back again is essential for long play sessions—while it may seem like a minor detail, you’ll end up frustrated if you routinely have to wait for your desk to change height while your player character stands idly by. The quietness of the motor is another oft-touted spec, but usually the reason for this is that a noisy desk will annoy those around you. While a noisy desk might annoy you personally, worrying about the noise of your gaming desk
-Spill-resistance. There’s no shame in it—every dedicated gamer eats at his or her desk for maximum efficiency. Don’t pick a desk that will wind up weird and stained through the years. Make sure to choose a work surface that is easily cleanable and will not warp due to liquid damage.
-A large enough work surface for all your stuff. This should go without saying, but don’t skimp on the size. Most standing desks lack the additional storage of traditional desks (though you can always add a file cabinet beneath your desk). This means that you may end up underestimating how much space you really need. Plus, we highly recommend a multi-monitor set up for gaming, which requires more space.
Budget electric desks that come within $300-$500 range are not the best option if you’re looking for a sturdy desk to support your multiple monitor setup, due to high electronics failure rate and low weight ratings. If you’re dead set on buying an electric desk and your budget allows it, however, we suggest looking into models that start at $700 and higher. This will ensure that you won’t end up replacing your desk before your PC. While you may find yourself tempted to go for a cheaper option, you’ll most likely end up regretting it.
Normally for consumers on a tighter budget, we recommend standing desk converters. However, the larger size of gaming rigs compared to office set-ups means that you could easily run into problems with smaller converters—you’ll want to make sure you have enough space to comfortably accommodate your monitor, mouse, and keyboard. The 42” iMovR ZipLift+ HD is a good starting point—but even its larger surface won’t fit the largest gaming configurations.
When shopping for a desk, don’t forget to allocate a part of your budget for essentials like a monitor arm (provided that the desk doesn’t come with one) and at the very least an anti-fatigue mat to reduce fatigue, prevent foot pain and blood pooling, and improve your posture.
For our roundup of the best standing desks, check out our standing desk comparison review.