The problem with our modern era is that most of us are spending all day sitting down. If you didn’t already know, sitting down for most of the day is very, very bad for you and is the cause of all kinds of health problems down the road. The longer you sit, the shorter your life is. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of things to accomplish in my life so I need to live a very long time (and stay healthy and energetic while I’m at it).
So the solution is to just stand all day! Right?
Wrong. On the other side of the coin, standing all day is also very bad for you.
So what’s a guy to do? The simple answer is to stand about 30% to 50% of the time you work. If you work at a sit-down job for eight or nine hours a day, stand for three of those hours. This is much easier and I can tell you from experience it’s rather enjoyable. It’s a very refreshing change of pace on those long work days.
I made the decision several months ago that on days where I know I’ll be sitting all day, I work for about three of those hours while standing. On days where I know I’ll be in and out for appointments, I don’t really worry about it, since I know I’ll be getting up walking, sitting, getting up again, etc, throughout the day. It’s just those “landlocked” days where I make sure I’m standing for about three hours or so.
If you’re going to follow this plan for long-term health and be standing sometimes and sitting others, obviously you need to make some changes at your desk. You have two options:
1. Work with a laptop so you can easily move it up and down as you wish.
2. Purchase a stand-up desk like the one pictured above, as well as a very tall chair for the times you want to sit.
Regular readers already know I’ve chosen option one. I work with a laptop that is connected to an external 24 inch flat screen monitor so I can have a dual monitor setup. Normally these just sit at my desk as normal. When I want to stand, I have two perfectly-sized, narrow-but-tall cardboard boxes that I keep hidden under my desk that I whip out and set the keyboard, monitor, and mouse on top.
I’ve ensured in advance all the cables attached to these things are long enough to easily move them to do this (and if your keyboard and/or mouse are wireless, all the better). Then I stand and work, noting the time or setting a timer on my smartphone so that I take breaks or revert to sitting at the correct times.
Second thing you need to be aware of is your posture. You have to make sure that while you’re standing you are not leaning or hunching over, and that your head is facing straight ahead, not down. You also want to do your best to make sure your arms are at good 45 degree angles or perhaps slightly tilted up as you type, not down. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
This crazy lady is walking on a treadmill while she’s working…I don’t recommend going to that extreme…but her posture is perfect. Your back should be straight, head should be pointing straight, and arms straight out or slightly up. Some people recommend stepping on something with one foot like a block or a thick book to force your posture up, but frankly I don’t do that. However I have a naturally straight posture; it’s something I’ve been working on and conscious of for a long time (lifting weights helps posture tremendously).
As you start doing this likely your feet will start getting tired. Some people purchase a thick flexible yoga mat or similar and stand on that. Other people will fold up a thick blanket and stand on that. I experimented with wearing tennis shoes and a few other things.
In the end I found that, for me at least, the best answer is to be barefoot but wear some very, very soft, squishy flip-flops. That keeps my footies nice and cushioned while I stand. I also tend to break up the three hours. I’ll sit for an hour, then stand for an hour, then sit, etc. If you are going to stand for hours on end while working then you’ll probably need to take further precautions for your feet, but as I said, I think that’s overkill for most normal people.
Give this a try. At first it feels weird but once you get into your work it’s very nice…and will help you live longer too.