Your chair is your enemy.
It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.
Long before that piece, I had been considering a standing desk, in part because I think they are cool. But more than that, I had been observing my own behavior. I’m an inveterate pacer. I found that, when I was on conference calls, I had begun to wear a cordless headset so I could stand up and pace. When I was writing, I would keep getting up and walking around. I had begun to think: I wonder if I should just figure out a way to stand all the time? (I was not concerned with the health aspects so much — I am quite active.)
Then I saw that news article, and I began to see colleagues with standing desks. Now I had to have one.
When I moved last September, it was a chance to change my home office (where I spend most of my day) around. So I decided to go for a standing desk.
My Standing Desk
Since I’m a cheapskate when it comes to furnishings, I decided to roll my own. Due to the move, we suddenly had two kitchen islands that were no longer going to be needed — each was 35.5 inches high. By stacking books and experimenting with my laptop, I determined that the optimal height to have a work surface was 43″.
So I would need to raise the islands by 8″.
I wanted something that would be rock-solid, and I am not very handy. So, instead of fashioning some sort of leg structure, I simply made pedestals out of 2×10 lumber. I had the Home Depot folks cut me 16 pieces that were each 8″ long, and four rectangular pieces that were 21″ long.
I stacked the small pieces 4 high, and attached them to one another by drilling drywall screws through each. Finally, I tied sets of two together with the rectangular pieces. The result looks like this:
Then, I simply rested the islands on top of the risers to create an L=shaped work area.
What I Learned Using A Standing Desk
I was very excited to start using my new standing desk, and I immediately felt benefits. I felt like I had more energy, and was generally more on top of things. Just standing made me feel like I was really in the game, work-wise.
But, to be honest, I think that was honeymoon. The honeymoon quickly wore off.
First, I noticed that my feet hurt . . . a lot. My office floor is hard tile, and I am either barefoot or in Vibram Five Finger shoes (which have no sole and no cushioning) all day long. After a few days, I could barely stand it. I found myself doing most of my work in a sofa that is my “reading nook” instead of at my desk.
Padding, I thought. That’s what I need. So I purchased some anti-fatigue matting at Home Depot and it helped a little bit, but not much. Finally, while setting up a home gym I discovered that I had some extra sheets of foam “puzzle” mat for the weight area — heavyweight stuff, 3/4″ thick. That seemed to do the trick, and I once again began to look forward to work. The setup looks like the photo at right.
But even that wasn’t enough. I still found myself taking breaks — long ones — on my sofa. It turns out that I like to both stand and sit.
So I would need a chair. However, since I had raised my desk so high — higher than most drafting tables — it became difficult to find a proper chair. None of them would actually go high enough. And, while I felt confident creating a platform for my desk, I was a little dubious of perching myself on top of a home-made chair platform.
Finally, I found a drafting chair that had an extra-high height extension (up to 32″). I keep that near my desk and, when I feel like it, I sit in it.
Again observing my own behavior, I find that when I need to do something that requires some focused concentration, I like the chair. For emails, phone work, light administrative duties, etc. — standing keeps me engaged.
The whole thing also keeps me a bit amused: I put a lot of effort into planning my standing desk, then a lot of effort into finding the right chair to go with my standing desk. Now I spend about half of my time on a super-tall chair in front of a surface meant for standing.
Do you use a standing desk? Have you tried one? Do you want to?
Let me know!