Beware The Chair

Since I'm on the experiments theme this week, I should share my last one.

After running a half-marathon in 2009 and a full one in 2010, I was seriously irked to read Why Your Desk Job Is Slowly Killing You. You can exercise all you want, but if you spend the bulk of your time sitting your heart disease risk is unchanged? Nice.

Besides that, the shortening of hip flexors, atrophy of glutes, etc. mentioned in the article are bad news for runners. Matt Fitzgerald contends that most running injuries are actually caused by sitting and devotes a whole chapter of Brain Training for Runners to remedial exercises.

Unlike most conundrums in life, this one has an easy fix. Stand up.

I had actually asked for a standing desk at work a couple of years ago, but was stymied by the dreaded Ergonomics Lady. Doctor's note this, management sign-off that - screw it. It was too much hassle and I forgot all about it until reading that article.

Well, not this time. Take the books off the shelf, put the keyboard on your ex-monitor stand and voila! Standing desk. Permission is overrated.

standing desk

It's been two months since I started standing full time at work and I love it. I've had a prototype standing desk (more to follow on that) at home for several years, but only used it in small time chunks, so going full time was still an experiment.

The result? My knees and hips feel more mobile, my energy level is higher, and I've been told my posture is better. The first couple of weeks I did experience mild soreness while my feet adapted. Shifting your weight and moving around regularly helps with that.

An extra plus is a phone headset with a long cord. The ability to pace when you're on a droning conference call is a beautiful thing. I now go stir crazy if I have to sit for more than half an hour.

A good way to test this out is to buy a VESA monitor mount, a 2x4 smooth-faced ply panel and two shelf brackets. It helps if you have an unfinished area in your house. I put mine in my storage room where all my low voltage wiring is terminated.

Hang your arms at a 90-degree angle with wrists relaxed and mount the shelf brackets on two studs right about where your hands fall and attach the panel. This is your desktop. Mount the monitor on another stud with the center of the monitor at eye level.My test "desk" cost me about $70, most of which was the monitor mount. I consider it an excellent investment.

If you choose to try this at work (and I recommend you do) you may want to do some marketing. You could tack up a flyer which says "Thanks, but my back is just fine" in the largest font you can find. Or you could print copies of "Why Your Desk Job is Slowly Killing You Article" and hand them to inquisitive passers-by. I chose Option B.

Give it a shot. Stand up for yourself - literally. If nothing else, it will help cement your reputation as an eccentric, which is a fine thing in my book.

Don't just take my word for it. Here's a nice clip by Kstar on the subject.

"Respect those who make a living lying down or standing up, never those who do so sitting down." Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Update 2017:

One thing I should have added is that if you get a standing desk, be sure to get an anti-fatigue mat and/or wear some comfortable shoes. Around the same time I started standing I switched to minimalist shoes and the combination of those and a hard floor eventually will bite you. I haven't been standing for a couple of years as I moved to a new cube where my DIY setup didn't work well and my feet were bothering me due to the above. Standing has now become common in my building and adjustable stand/sit desk add-ons can be ordered without any bureaucracy. Think it's time I start again...

Jeremy Ulstad

Dad, IT Architect, Musician, Sailor

Minneapolis, Minnesota