What is the 20-8-2 Rule for Standing Desk Users?

Worker spending time at sit-stand desk

Table of Contents

Definition of the 20-8-2 Rule

As the name suggests, the 20-8-2 rule recommends spending 20 minutes sitting, followed by 8 minutes standing, and then 2 minutes of light movement or walking. This cycle is designed to be repeated every half hour, creating a dynamic and varied work routine that combats the negative effects of prolonged sitting or standing.

In today’s sedentary work culture, where most office employees spend hours sitting at their desks, the concept of the “20-8-2 rule” has gained significant traction. This simple yet effective guideline aims to promote a healthier and more active lifestyle for those who primarily work at a desk.

So if you frequently wonder how long to stand at a standing desk and how often and for how long to take movement breaks, this article might be interesting for you.

Why Exactly Do Standing Desk Users Use the 20-8-2 Rule?

Someone working at a standing desk

The 20-8-2 rule has emerged as a popular guideline for standing desk users, aiming to strike a balance between sitting, standing, and moving throughout the workday. This simple yet effective approach encourages individuals to alternate between different postures and incorporate regular movement breaks, ultimately promoting better health and productivity.

The primary reason behind adopting the 20-8-2 rule is to combat the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting or standing. Numerous studies have highlighted the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, including:

  • Increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases
  • Musculoskeletal issues such as back and neck pain and poor posture
  • Reduced productivity and cognitive function


On the other hand, standing for extended periods can also lead to discomfort and fatigue, potentially causing issues like:

  • Varicose veins and swollen legs
  • Increased risk of joint and back pain
  • Decreased focus and productivity


By following the 20-8-2 rule, standing desk users can reap the benefits of both sitting and standing while mitigating the risks associated with prolonged exposure to either position. Here are the key advantages of adhering to this guideline:

  1. Improved circulation: Regular movement and posture changes promote cardiovascular health by improving blood flow.

  2. Improved blood sugar control: Studies have shown significant reductions in blood sugar spikes after meals just by standing instead of sitting.
  3. Reduced risk of musculoskeletal disorders: Alternating between sitting, standing, and moving helps alleviate pressure on specific muscle groups and joints, reducing the likelihood of developing conditions like back pain.

  4. Increased energy levels and focus: Incorporating movement breaks can boost energy levels and improve cognitive function, leading to enhanced productivity and focus throughout the workday.

  5. Promotion of an active lifestyle: By encouraging regular movement and posture changes, the 20-8-2 rule helps individuals adopt a more active and dynamic work routine, which can have positive implications for overall health and well-being.

Furthermore, the 20-8-2 rule is relatively easy to implement and can be adapted to individual preferences and work environments. Standing desk users can set reminders or use apps to help them adhere to the recommended intervals, gradually adjusting the durations as they become more accustomed to the routine.

Where Does the 20-8-2 Rule Come From?

The 20-8-2 rule originated from the research and recommendations of Alan Hedge, a renowned professor at Cornell University.

His research and teaching activities focused on issues of design and workplace ergonomics, including the effects of postural strain on the health, comfort, and productivity of workers. Hedge recognized the need for a practical solution that could help promote overall well-being in the workplace.

Through his findings, Hedge proposed the 20-8-2 rule as a simple yet effective approach to combating the negative effects of prolonged sitting or standing. 

Professor Hedge’s research and the 20-8-2 rule have been widely embraced by ergonomics experts, health professionals, and organizations worldwide. Many companies have implemented standing desks and encouraged their employees to follow the 20-8-2 rule as part of their workplace wellness initiatives.

Should You Use the 20-8-2 Rule?

Because this rule is based on research studies and recommended by a known professor who specializes in workplace ergonomics, we would definitely recommend trying it out. 

If you search for recommendations on when and how long to sit, stand, and take a break, you’ll often see that sit-stand ratios from 1:1 to 1:3 are recommended (30 to 45 minutes of standing and 15 to 30 minutes of sitting within an hour). This is based on research by a University of Waterloo professor. You’ll also find the recommendation that you should take a movement break of 5-10 minutes every hour, which is not too far from what the 20-8-2 rule suggests.

This shows that recommendations for a good standing desk routine can strongly vary. Which recommendations you should implement ultimately depends on your personal preferences and needs.

If you want a more comfortable and secure approach, we would rather recommend working your way up to the 20-8-2 routine first. If you then feel like you could stand for longer periods and even take longer movement beaks, feel free to try out the other recommended ratios. It’s just always important that you listen to your body and not exaggerate anything. It’s also important that you contact a healthcare professional if you feel unsure about anything.


Is it better to use a standing desk or a treadmill desk? 

Both standing desks and treadmill desks offer benefits over sitting all day long. A standing desk allows you to alternate between sitting and standing positions, while a treadmill desk allows you to walk while working. The ideal choice depends on your personal preferences and workspace. If you have the space and resources, a treadmill desk can be a great option for those who want to incorporate more physical activity into their workday.

How can I incorporate movement into my workday? 

Incorporating movement into your workday can be as simple as taking a short walk during your short breaks or holding walking meetings instead of sitting in a conference room. You can also try desk exercises, such as calf raises or desk push-ups, or invest in a treadmill desk or balance board to maintain higher physical activity while working.

Is it important to shift your weight while standing?

Yes, it is important to shift your weight while standing, especially when using a standing desk for extended periods. Weight shifting helps improve balance, reduce muscle fatigue, and promote better circulation. It also engages different muscle groups, preventing prolonged static postures that can lead to discomfort or strain.