Because we Americans spend so much time sitting on our ever-expanding rumps, standing desks are gaining popularity in office culture. I began using one in my illustration studio over a year ago. Recently a friend wrote to ask me if I would recommend that he get one? After typing a long response to him, I decided it might make a good blog post.
In a nutshell: I highly recommend it, but transition may be bumpy. At least, it was for me.
For one thing, to do it right will cost you a few bucks. You won’t just need a new desk. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll also wind up getting a few “extras” which, if you can afford them, will make your transition easier and vastly improve your long-term experience:
• The desk itself. To save money I cobbled mine together using parts from my local IKEA. I don’t remember exactly what it cost but I’m pretty sure it was under $200. But you don’t even have to spend that much. If you Google around you’ll find lots of sites offering various “standing desk hacks” for as little as $20 and some of them look not too shabby. There’s not really any one right way to do it. Just find something you can afford that’s also big enough to accommodate your equipment and working habits.
• A comfortable floor mat. Standing in one spot all day can be hard on your feet, especially if you aren’t used to it. Sliding a soft-but-firm mat under your shoes can make a world of difference. The one I bought was a little expensive but is made specifically for standing desks. It’s very cushy and comfortable. As standing desks are becoming more popular I’m seeing more standing desk mats hitting the market. I got mine from newlifemats.com but in hindsight it’s bigger than what I need. If I had it to do over again I might try something like this one.
• A one-legged stool. No, that’s not a typo. Standing all day can also get tiring (especially if you are as out of shape as I am). This unique stool is specially designed for standing desks and it was a life saver for me. When I get tired of standing I can rest on it for a while, but because it only has one leg and a wobbly base I still have to use my core muscles to keep my balance. It’s nice but it’s not too comfortable so after resting a few minutes I’m back to standing again. I hop on and off many times throughout the day but I am never on it for more than a few minutes at a time.
• An inexpensive footstool. I can’t explain why but for some reason putting one foot or the other on a footstool for a few minutes now and then is very comfortable. It also helps to rest both feet on it when I’m using the one-legged stool. A footstool is inexpensive and definitely worth getting!
No Pain, No Gain
Now that I’m used to it I really like my standing desk and can’t imagine going back to sitting all day. But the transition was tough. I’m about 90 pounds overweight so at first it was really hard on my feet. In fact, for those first few brutal days I actually had to soak my feet at night in a salt solution because they hurt so much. That’s what prompted me to buy the one-legged stool. Then after a few weeks the pain passed. I’m not sure if it was the stool that helped, or if my body just got used to it, or both, but now I can go all day with absolutely no pain at all.
So, Is It Worth It?
Now that my body is adjusted I can honestly say I really do feel a lot better than I did in my swivel-chair days. I definitely feel more alert while I’m working, and for longer periods. It’s probably also better for my back since I’m not slouching in my chair like a squishy blob for hours at at time. I don’t want to sound like an infomercial pitch man but now that I’ve been doing it for a while the thought of sitting all day actually sounds unappealing. I now understand why standing desks get so much hype. In my experience, they really do have value.
Some people claim you even burn more calories at a standing desk. I’m not sure how much truth there is to that. I certainly haven’t lost any weight but I do think it’s healthier in the sense that I’m using my body a bit more throughout the day, shifting my weight regularly and getting on and off the stool. A standing desk is definitely no substitute for going to the gym, but all those little full-body movements do add up. I definitely feel less sluggish. Also, I have a loveseat in my studio and once or twice a day I usually have to take a short break to just sit for a few minutes and rest. That tells me my body is doing more than it did when I had a chair.
Is a standing desk worth the investment? I definitely think so. Each person’s experience will be different but for me, I’ve become a fan of standing desks and have no desire to switch back.