Thoughts: Standing Desk

Thoughts: Standing Desk

I recently built myself a standing desk to help offset the hours I sit everyday. So what’s the world of standing desks like? It’s an adjustment, that’s for sure.

Wait, what’s a standing desk?

Standing desks, they were all over the media the past few years(at least the media I was reading) so you may have heard of these. You know desks that are designed so its arm height to type on a keyboard? The premise is that standing will reduce the negative health effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time. Granted, standing all day isn’t good either so it’s usually recommended to have a stool you can pull up to use when you get tired or need a break.

Some of the negative effects of sitting all day is reduced muscle use, which leads to atrophy of the leg and core section muscles. Pressure on the legs can slow blood flow and can cause clots in prolonged periods of inactivity. Additionally, poor posture and reduced calorie expenditure are all tied to sitting.

Standing desks require you to use your core and leg muscles as well as keep your neurons firing all the way to your toes allowing you to burn extra calories each hour standing. As you are standing you won’t be at risk of blot clots in your legs either.

Cons To Standing?

Yes, there are cons. For one we are not designed to stand for prolonged periods of time so there is negative stress on your joints if not given a break. In addition, some folks have reported pooling of blood or fluid in their legs creating swollen ankles and it does encourage creation of vericose veins as without moving your legs fluids are able to pool more freely. That led to the creation of treadmill desks where you walk and work at the same time.

My Standing Desk (Experiment)

So if you haven’t been following us (subscribe via email in the sidebar to fix that!), I built myself a new desk back in June and decided to opt for it to be a standing desk. You can read how to build it yourself here. I decided to go with a standing desk instead of a traditional desk as my day job is IT and I sit all day at a desk. As my hobbies revolve around staring at computer screens for additional hours per day after work, so I thought it would be in my health’s best interest to add some standing into the large amount of time I spend being sedentary.

Experience

What’s it like using a standing desk? Well, it’s not to different from standing and using a desk separately its just doing both at the same time. Although standing supposedly increases focus by keeping you uncomfortable enough to not stray from the task at hand, I didn’t really find that for myself at home but did notice it some at work on days when I wasn’t 100% rested. Makes sense though as standing requires you to be more alert than leaning back in a comfortable chair. Odd, but I will take it, I am sure your mileage will vary as everyone is different and you won’t know until you try it. I guess for some it can really help with focusing.

As for standing long periods of time, I needed to work myself back into standing again. Back when I was in high school and college I worked at a popular Drug Store chain here in the US as a cashier and was on my feet the entire shift for up to 8 hours. Since leaving that job about 5 or so years ago I have had desk jobs where I sit all day. So getting used to standing again was difficult to say the least. My legs and knees got tired and achy very quickly. I had to work into it slowly by listening to my body and taking breaks as needed and sometimes push through knowing I had only stood for short periods of time. Now I can stand for an hour or so without too much trouble and work a good portion of the day at my desk while standing.

So, with this increased stamina for standing, whats good and bad about working this way?

Advantages

  • Increased attention when not fully rested
  • Increased Caloric burn per hour than when sitting
  • Strengthens core muscles and helps posture(if you don’t lean on the desk)
  • Tasks involving building or working with physical objects are easier(such as building/upgrading/cleaning PC’s)
  • Encourages movement and that you pay attention to your body more
  • Less chance of blood clots from sitting to long

Disadvantages

  • Sometimes I just want to sit and lean back and get in the zone
  • Concern of vericose veins by inactivity and standing still
  • Discomfort can be distracting while ‘in the zone’ and harm productivity with a forced break
  • Cost can be high to switch to standing. Custom desks and chairs designed for this task are much more expensive than traditional furniture. Chances are you already own a sit down desk so you may need to purchase an entire new desk if monitor and keyboard stands are not enough for you to do your job.

Final Verdict: Indecisive

I am torn currently after using this arrangement for two months. I no longer have my boxes to stand at work and haven’t pursued asking about a stand desk so I stand while at home and sit all day at work. Although I have no issues using my standing desk on the weekend, I still find myself tired enough from work on some days that standing just feels like too much effort and I would prefer to sit. That’s odd to type as sitting shouldn’t be tiring right? However, it is how I feel which is kind of perplexing when I think about it. So when this happens I grab my laptop and sit/lay on the couch instead of using my desktop. Because of this, I have found I use my desktop less as my laptop is good enough and sitting is just so convenient.

There are times when I miss my set up I had in college where I had a large L-Shaped desk and a high back reclining office chair. Here I would kick my feet up and code for hours on end in what I thought was the most comfortable arrangement for long term computer use regardless of how healthy it is for my body. The jury is still out whether I can be that productive again while standing or if sitting reclined is the better option for me.

Other Options?

Yes. Oddly enough aside from treadmill desks and convertible sit/stand desks, reclining has been suggested as an alternative to sitting. This reduces the bad posture issues associated with sitting and if you prop your feet up allows better blood flow in your legs. This is more how I used to work so I may want to try this is the future. It has been ages since I was fully relaxed and comfortable at my workstation. So perhaps there are a few modifications that need to happen to my current home-built desk to make it exactly what I need. It’s touch because having a workspace this natural is nice for projects, but just not good enough to be comfortable for computing work for me. Perhaps with a higher office chair and an L-extension to my current space I can create the perfect work zone for me. However I don’t want to chop apart my desk to have to rebuild the legs later if I don’t like it.

Your thoughts?

Alternative desks seemed to be all the rage, so if you have experimented I would love to hear your story! Did you use it and keep it? Transition back to sitting? Use a treadmill? Try reclining? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to try any suggestions you have to better suit my long computer use needs.

 

~Trevor

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