Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why I'm first in line for standing desks

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Blame the first two people who formed a line. Blame the powerful recliner lobby. For whatever reason, standing has developed a bad rap. I used to hate it. I'd dramatically glance at my nonexistent watch when waiting longer than two minutes to pay for groceries. But not anymore. No, I have seen the light. Or, I'm closer to it, anyway.

Two weeks ago, using some abandoned mail boxes I found around the CL office, I propped my computer monitor, keyboard and mouse high enough so that I could stand while working. Essentially, I created a standing desk. I could have gone the more expensive route - real standing desks are pricey - but as a journalist, that would have meant sacrificing my retirement fund.


Before my rudimentary invention, I equated standing desks to veganism or Pilates or math - things I'd like to be good at but am neither naturally inclined nor willful enough to practice.

Truthfully, I sort of got scared into standing. Late last year, The British Journal of Sports Medicine published the findings of a large Australian study that showed sitting for extended periods of time is worse for our health than smoking. According to The New York Times' story on the study:

Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer's life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.

By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the authors said.

What's scarier: Those results didn't change for people who exercise regularly.

I'm somewhere between a health freak and someone who considers french fries a vegetable. I don't live my life according to health studies, but serious ones catch my attention from time to time. I read that Times story, conducted my own research, and found other health benefits - and scary statistics. Sitting all day increases your chances of having a heart attack by 54 percent. Standing, on the other hand, seems to breed genius. Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Jefferson, Leonardo Da Vinci and Charles Dickens worked on their feet.

Some companies have even taken the concept a step further (no pun intended) and encourage their employees to utilize standing desks, treadmill desks and even walk outside for meetings. Novel yet totally ancient concepts.

Two weeks in and I continue to feel the benefits. My focus has sharpened, my energy consistently high. My legs and back feel stronger, and I'm much more conscious of my posture. I end my days feeling more productive (maybe because my body burns about 140 calories every three hours I stand). I sleep better. Standing gives me the opportunity to expel nervous energy - I'm a natural fidgeter - that I would otherwise take home. (I also have a staring problem, which can make standing in a cubicle-filled office awkward. One coworker recently observed that she could "feel my gaze." Guilty - and creepy.)

Standing desks may not be for everyone. Some experts in occupational health have said standing for prolonged periods without taking small sitting breaks could even be bad for us. (I'll admit, the first few days were pretty torturous on my feet.) It's a big commitment, and I don't know if I'll end the year - the week, even - standing.

But I hope I do, if for no other reason than to buy more time to eat cheese fries.

UPDATE: You asked, and I delivered. Here is a photo of my standing desk. Tweet us photos of yours.


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