Short version: Move regularly
I’ve been using a standing desk now for about a year and a half now. It seems to be rising in popularity at work, and the past few weeks several people have come over to look at my setup, and get some advice on what I do, and how I do it.
How it started
I started the standing desk for health reasons. I’ve always been into fitness, and have been working out regularly most of my adult life. Being a desk jockey isn’t conducive to being fit, and I didn’t realize how bad sitting (or not moving) for extended periods of time was for me. I was introduced to standing desks through Crossfit. I did1 Crossfit for over 3 years. I was doing WOD’s 5 days a week, and had all the injuries to prove it. My Crossfit adventure could fill a whole post, but it did lead me down the path to a standing desk.
Sitting is a pain in the rear; literally. Before a standing desk, I would sit most the day, besides my 1 hour workout during lunch, sit on the bike on the way to/from work. Go home and sit and eat dinner. Then I’d sit and watch TV. It just seemed like my life was full of sitting. I was actually very irritated & tired of sitting.
All this sitting was not helping my fitness levels, and because of that, and some other health issues, I did some research which led me to a few posts on the Internet about standing desks. I ended up finding several videos1 from this Crossfit mobility dude, Kelly Starret.
I also found some insightful posts from the primal pro, Mark Sisson. On his site, he’s got several posts about standing desks.1 He’s also got some great advice on maintaining overall fitness, and lifestyle.
I started with a goal to alternate standing and sitting every hour, and see how it worked. My first setup was using old moving boxes, paper reams, and some sweet MacGyver-y maneuvers for about 6 months. I would raise and lower my monitors/keyboard/mouse by hand. It took me several weeks of getting used to standing, but the pain!…Oh the pain! The pain in my back from arching it too much while standing was pretty bad. I needed to learn how to stand properly. Who knew that was such a thing? Again, Kelly Starrett to the rescue.
The key I found to being most comfortable either standing or sitting is to take short breaks to move. After about a half hour or so, my legs start to feel like blood is pooling and start to go numb at about that time, so I try to get moving to shake it off. Some squats, or walk to get a drink, or go stretch someplace quiet. Listen to what your body is telling you. Don’t force yourself through the pain, get up and move!
After about 6 months of using the moving boxes, I graduated to the kangaroo desk. This setup is cool because it raises and lowers easily, so you can sit or stand without too much hassle.
I also got a little stool to alternate putting one foot up. This helps alleviate fatigue in the legs, and helps the blood circulate better. There is also an anti-fatigue mat that I stand on to cushion my feet while standing. I usually shuck my shoes to be in my sock feet, so the pad is great. It alleviated the knee pain (from an old injury) that was exacerbated from standing for long periods.
Pros & Cons
Sometimes it’s easier to focus when I’m sitting. When I have something that takes a lot of attention, I’m not sure why, but I prefer to sit. Other article’s I’ve read say the exact opposite. I say “sometimes” because I can get in the zone while standing, and an hour or two pass by, and I realize I haven’t really shifted positions. I think standing is slightly better than sitting. The real key is to move your body frequently.
I lost about 5 pounds just changing from sitting all day, to alternating standing/sitting. That part was pretty great. I didn’t have to change what I ate, or how much I worked out.
In the End
I do like the standing desk, but the ideal for me, is to move regularly. Standing up, sitting down, walking, squats, etc.
I wonder if my next nerdly fitness thing will be a Treadmill desk. Those still seem kind of wonky and expensive though.