Health researchers have long been studying the effects of sitting at work. The reports I’ve seen are negative: sitting all day at work is detrimental to your health. Circulation is cut off to portions of your body, your organs are squeezed and your joints/muscles are forced to remain in static positions all day. Even more disturbing is the finding that exercise cannot offset the negative effects of sitting. If you’re sitting all day, you are harming your health.
Standing desks are nothing new, so I’ve been thinking about it for a number of years. After seeing a post describing very cost-effective standing desks, I decided it was time to try. It depends upon your height, but most people need nothing more than a coffee table and a shelf from Ikea (about $20 total). In my case, I’m tall enough that I don’t even need the shelf. The only item I purchased was a 35″ x 21″ LACK coffee table (p/n 101.042.95). You will probably also want an anti-fatigue floor mat to protect your feet, knees and back.
Photos of my Standing Desk (before and after)
Standing Desk Caveats
No more slouching! Like anything else, there’s no single, simple solution to a complex issue. You will injure yourself if you throw up a standing desk and don’t treat your body well. I’m not an expert yet, but I know that you need to maintain a healthy posture, keep your body moving and treat your feet right.
My Experience at a Standing Desk
I know my body will need to adjust during the first week or two. I’m keeping a log to help me see the progression and to inform others of potential stumbling blocks. No matter which type of office setup you select, make deliberate decisions.
- Day 1 (half day): I’m excited not to be tied to a chair. Lots of stretches and tree pose while reading e-mail. It’s easy to take a step back from the computer if I need something else in the office. After returning home, I had the distinct impression that my posture was improved. No negatives yet.
- Day 2: the LACK coffee table wasn’t my only purchase at Ikea – we also purchased a bunk-bed. My legs are sore and stiff from the strenuous project of assembling the beds and individually pounding in 28 ill-fitting slats. Nevertheless, I don’t feel that standing all day made my legs worse, nor did it make them stiffer. I did stretch several times while reading mail, which is a habit I need to reinforce. I noticed that my knees and lower back were uncomfortable towards the end of the day.
- Day 3: Today I periodically took a few minutes to stretch or sit. They were short breaks, but it was good to stretch and change positions. Overall, I was less fatigued – there wasn’t much discomfort until the very end of the day.
- Day 4: I’ve found that as the week progressed I got sloppier with my posture. I need to build the habit of healthy posture – it’s not something that comes naturally. I’m hopeful that at the end of this experiment, my posture is improved both at the desk and away from the desk. In any case, my feet, calves, lower back and shoulders do feel a bit strained.
- Weekend: I had a feeling that my body needed a break, so I spent a bit of time taking it easy. I felt slightly stiff on Saturday, but was back to normal on Sunday.
- Day 5: My body is definitely getting used to the new routine. I did a good job maintaining a healthy posture throughout the day. I also received my shipment of LaCrosse balls, so my soft tissues are getting a workout during the day. My legs were slightly uncomfortable for the last few minutes of the day.
- Day 6: More good results! I’ve had plenty of energy all through the day. Since I switched to the standing desk, I haven’t felt any drowsiness in the afternoon (after lunch).
- Day 7: No big changes. I think I’m in the groove.
What’s with the LaCrosse balls?
Google is an interesting company, as they hire motivational speakers for their employees and then also post the presentations on Youtube. One of them addresses staying healthy at your desk. It’s directed more towards sitting desks than standing desks, but there are several really valuable nuggets for everyday life (and for standing at your desk). One of the suggestions involves delamination of your tissues, which means using LaCrosse balls for deep tissue massage.