Updated: Feb 5
If your job involves a lot of sitting down, the simple act of standing up while you work could help you in the long term.
According to the UK's National Health Service, sitting down for long periods of time is thought to slow down metabolism. This contributes to weight gain that can lead to diabetes or heart disease.
An experiment carried out in the 1950s showed that double-decker bus drivers were twice as likely to have heart attacks as their bus conductor colleagues. The drivers sat for 90 percent of their shifts while the bus conductors climbed around 600 stairs each working day. Nowadays, bus drivers have more non-driving time during their working hours which enables them to move around more.
In any case, reducing the amount of time that you are sitting can benefit you in many ways. This doesn't mean you should be standing most of the time but you should be making an effort to achieve a balance between sitting and standing that is right for you.
My own motivation for thinking about my sitting time stemmed from having to work at home. As someone who had been working at home since the Covid pandemic began in March 2020, I had come to feel like I wasn't moving around much (just like thousands of others who have desk jobs). The sense of urgency in the morning to get ready on time and have breakfast and the brisk walk to the station to catch the train were missing.
Furthermore, while in the office, there was more walking around for lunch and tea breaks. Suddenly, I had everything within arms reach or within ten paces. My morning commute involved walking into the bedroom and setting up my desk, just a metre away from where I had spent the night sleeping. I merely had to pop into the en-suite bathroom for toilet breaks. Lunch and tea were just around the corner in the kitchen.
For meetings I simply had to put on my headphones. No meeting rooms to walk to. The evening commute involved putting my laptop back into my bag and walking out to my family in the living room five paces away.
In short, my entire professional life was compressed into my personal living space. The result of this was that I was sitting down more and standing less, walking less, and generally moving less. This was not sustainable. I had to do something about it.
I decided to do two things. Yoga and Weights. My Yoga mat was in the corner of the room and my weights were just under my desk. If I did these two activities at least once a week, then I would at least reduce the amount of time I spent sitting. This, for me, was a realistic goal. So I put in a slot in my calendar for Yoga - Wednesdays at 5 pm (15 minutes), and another for Weights - Thursdays at 12 pm (15 minutes). Most of the time I was able to stick to this schedule. The occasional unscheduled call from a colleague or life in general may have gotten in the way a few times but at least I had a schedule which, for the most part, I stuck to.
This made me feel better. However, I thought I could go further. What if I could reduce my sitting time while working? The only thing I could do while working, other than sitting, was standing. Bravo! But this meant I needed a desk that could stand up with me. Of course, this wasn't a novel idea. I had always had a stand up desk at the office so why not have one at home which was now my office.
So I started shopping (from the comfort of my desk of course) for a stand up desk, or a sit-stand desk to be precise, as I still wanted to be sitting down most of the time.
I started researching such desks and came across quite a few providers, one of them being Yo yo desk who have an impressive array of options. They also provide optional accessories for keeping your cables tidy and organised.
After much deliberation, I decide to go with EZ Shopper who sell a reasonably priced and good quality product. I didn't need any fancy cable baskets. I just needed a desk of a decent size that could stand at the touch of a button with memory settings for different heights. This desk ticked all the boxes. Also, this provider is UK based (which is where I am based) so I decided to go with them.
At the time, it wasn't obvious to me from their website what the dimensions of the desk were so I emailed them. They replied promptly to advise that it was 118cm wide and 60cm deep. The thickness of the table top was 12cm. This was perfect for me. The desk comes in a choice of colours. I went with the standard White Frame with Light Oak Finish Desktop as it went well with the decor of my room. The fact that is has a child lock made it even more appealing as that meant my naughty toddler could do no damage with it.
The desk arrived within 5 days of placing the order. I managed to assemble it in just under an hour, which is good by my standards.
After having used the desk for a few months, I have been very content with my purchase. It isn't as fancy as the one at my office but it does exactly what I need it to do. It is a single motor desk as opposed to the double motor one I have at the office. This means it moves up and down slightly slower.
I typically stand up at my desk twice a day for about 30 to 45 minutes each time so I have managed to reduce my sitting time reasonably well. I also notice that, while I am standing up, I find myself pacing around the room when brainstorming a solution to a coding problem which I would otherwise do sitting down.
It is important to be safe and effective while using a standing desk. The desk that you buy may come with a list of recommendations for safe and effective use.
Using a standing desk is one of many ways you can optimise the way you work. As the new adage goes, sitting is the new smoking. While this is clearly not true, as long as you are moving around more and not sitting down for too long at a stretch, you are making sure you don't succumb to a sedentary lifestyle.