Back in June I blogged about my decision to switch to a standing desk in my office (bit.ly/Nfuedz). Like many developers, I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a PC monitor, and the long hours sitting in an office chair were taking a toll. Sore back, stiff neck, aching right shoulder, numb legs—by the end of the day I felt like I had aged 20 years.
What ultimately drove me to my feet was a growing body of evidence that sitting all day is a real health risk. A long-term study of 7,744 men by the University of South Carolina (bit.ly/8XQGQz) found that sedentary lifestyles dramatically increase the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. Men reporting more than 23 hours of sedentary activity a week were 64 percent more likely to die from heart disease, according to the study, than those reporting less than 11 hours of inactivity. A 2012 study from the University of Missouri, meanwhile, continuously monitored the blood sugar levels of participants over two three-day spans—one featuring regular physical activity and the other reduced activity. Researchers found that participant blood sugar levels spiked during the days of lower activity. (1.usa.gov/nijOZB).
And really, I didn’t need medical studies to tell me what my body already knows. Sitting for 10-plus hours a day is not good for me. So I don’t sit anymore.
I got started on the cheap. I grabbed a few spare file boxes to serve as pedestals for my two LCD displays (27 and 24 inch), keyboard, mouse and 11.5-inch notebook. The setup had all the visual appeal of a couch dumped on a front lawn, but it worked. And within a couple days I noticed something. The aches I encountered after a long day hunched over the keyboard were gone. Granted, my feet hurt a bit and my knees were sore, but I felt much better in the evenings than ever before.
It’s been four months since I switched to a standing desk. The file boxes are gone, replaced by a chrome wire shelf set on 14-inch posts to lift my monitors close to eye level. And while I’d love to move to a convertible desk that can be raised or lowered to a sitting or standing position, I’m too cheap to make the commitment. But as one reader pointed out to me in an e-mail exchange, paying $800 or more on a convertible desk, such as the GeekDesk, could be money well spent.
“I came to the conclusion that if I can spend $1,000 on ski equipment that gets used maybe 10 to 20 times a year, I can spend about that on a desk that I’ll use every day for years,” wrote Jason Linden, an analyst/developer at Boeing in Everett, Wash. “You could maybe even deduct it [for tax purposes] if you meet the requirements.”
In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to stay comfortable. I take occasional breaks, repairing to a sofa to put my feet up while I read a manuscript or take a quick phone call, and I keep a tall stool handy so I can sit down occasionally at my workstation. I also started standing on a padded yoga mat a couple months back, which has really helped. Another reader wrote that a small foot stool under the desk can help with fatigue as well, and I plan to give that a try.
I’ll continue to tweak things, but after four months it’s clear that my standing desk experiment has been a huge success. Have you moved to a standing desk or found another solution? E-mail me at email@example.com.
Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.
I recently converted to an adjustable height desk at work a little over two months ago. I can't begin to tell you how much it has helped with my mental awareness, productivity, and overall sense of well-being. The first week left my feet and muscles sore, but seemed to lessen as time went on and my body became more accustom to the new routine. I've found that standing with your knees slightly bent and engaged instead of locking them out really helps with fatigue over the day. I also found that putting more weight on the balls of my feet helps too. It seems to focus more of your body's work into the muscles instead of the joints. I've even noticed the benefits of better stamina for my daily workout routine, be it running or yoga. And a final note...since it is an adjustable desk, it allows me to sit an hour to an hour and a half a day to give myself a break.
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