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Standing at Work: Feels Good and Saves Lives!

Posted on 25 July 2012

Sitting while you work is killing you. No, really. It’s the subject of much discussion this week.

I’m not going to go into a detailed analysis of all the studies that have been done on this subject (a pretty good set of articles is linked to in the preamble to this Wirecutter article). But I am going to share my own experience with standing on the job.

I stand on the job. It started about a year and a half ago. I was well into being established in an office job which mostly consists of typing, phone conversations, and other computer work. And I was being met with the usual challenges of inertia: sluggishness, weight gain, etc. Despite being largely inactive all day, I would still come home and be wiped, wanting to lay down or sit. Despite not moving, I was still tired.

I thought back to other jobs, and remembered how on other office jobs I’d had I’d experienced the same problems (and noticeable weight-gain issues) that I only managed to fix when I went to being unemployed. I didn’t experience those problems when I worked in a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a mill. And I often felt less sluggish. Without doing any research into the subject, I looked at the common denominators: I sat at the office jobs. I stood at the other ones. And despite enjoying the work of the office jobs more, I enjoyed the way I felt physically more at the other ones. If you’re going to be exhausted at the end of the day, better that you be mentally and physically exhausted, rather than just mentally (which will drag you down physically anyways).

So I made a resolution: I would stand at work. And I did. Here’s how I did it:

Standing Desk

Not particularly fancy. I’m lucky to have a desk with an upper platform already, but that’s an upside-down recycling box for my keyboard and a packaging box for my mouse. The recycling box is now an actual keyboard stand, but the cardboard box remains in place. If I didn’t have the elevated platform, I’d go out and buy some other sort of box or platform for my monitor. At home I stack my monitor on set of encyclopaedias (sad statement on their use), and kneel on an exercise ball. I’ve been working on-air this week, and most of the time I have my mic elevated so I can stand while speaking. I only sit when a guest comes in so I’m at the same level as them, or when I have to do some concentrated typing.

Standing also makes me move more, which is just as (and possibly more) important. Even typing right now, I’m taking regular split-second breaks to shift my legs or walk around. I’ll regularly jump up and down to get my mind moving, or take a quick walk around the office. I do this more when standing then I ever would while sitting. I’m also lucky enough to have a headset, so when I’m talking on the phone I can walk around the office or pace, which I do constantly.

This system has made a huge difference. I get far less sluggish (and the sluggishness returns whenever I spend a day sitting). I have more physical and mental energy, both on-the-job and at home. At the end of the day, my body feels like it’s done something as opposed to just having sat there. It’s nice to have my body and mind in sync: while my mind is working, so is my body, and relaxing at the end of the day is earned by both parties.

So I encourage it. If you have a box or books or money to spend on something fancier, elevate your monitor, push back your chair and stand at work. I’ve been doing it for 18 months and it feels great. Now I’m seeing all sorts of studies telling me that it is decreasing my chances of death significantly, which also feels pretty good.

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