By too much sitting still, the body becomes unhealthy, and soon the mind. This is nature’s law.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1839
To stand or not to stand, that is the question.
Like solar USB chargers or clip-on mug holders, standing desks are the latest office accessory. But are they really worth getting excited about? Do they really give you the benefits that their advocates boast of?
Or, like floppy disks and VHS, are they going to be something we reminisce about with our grandchildren?
A Butt-tastic Past
As writers, we sit on our arses for a lot of the day. When we’re deep into a manuscript, we may not move for a couple of hours, maybe more. We are well versed in the hazards of writing too. Repetitive strain injury, carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain, to name just a few.
And we’re not the only ones. With a large percentage of jobs done facing a computer screen and/or at a desk, more and more people are at risk from the problems associated with an inactive lifestyle.
In 2015, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that sitting on your butt for more than 3 hours a day contributed to 38% of all mortality rates in the 54 countries that were surveyed. Some of the worse cases were in Europe, America and South East Asia.
Sitting for extended periods of time also contributes to problems with heart and vascular function, as well as posture and neck strain. Even more worrying is the fact that if you work in a sedentary environment, you are more likely to be less active in your spare time too. It’s no surprise, therefore, that obesity levels are rising and show no signs of stopping.
It has even been said that ‘sitting is the new smoking’.
So how can a standing desk help?
For the Love of a Standing Desk…
Standing desks aren’t new. In fact, they’ve been around for years. Even Victorian authors caught onto the habit. But there has been a real surge of interest in them since potential health benefits were uncovered. People have begun to realise that sedentary isn’t sensible.
But what exactly are the benefits of a standing desk and how could they help writers like you and me? Research shows that a standing desk can:
- Improve core strength and posture.
- Reduce eye strain.
- Improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Lower your risk of weight gain and obesity.
- Reduce neck and back pain.
- Improve productivity rates by up to 45%.
- Improve mood and self-esteem.
- Increase energy levels.
As you can see, it not only has physical health benefits but a standing desk contributes to our mental health and wellbeing too. By doing more and achieving more, our self-esteem naturally rises. We begin to have greater confidence in what we produce and strive to produce more of it. Never underestimate the power of productivity.
My Standing Desk Journey
As some of you may know, I write in a cabin at the bottom of my garden. Living in England means we get about 3.5 minutes of sunshine a year and a lot of rain. This photo was taken in the first minute of sunshine before we were plunged into darkness and misery once again.
Now I love my cabin. It’s the greatest writing space a girl could wish for, but in the depths of winter, it gets bloody cold. I have slippers, blankets and a small heater, but there are days when even they won’t suffice.
In January, I decided that I could bear it no longer and decided to write in the warmth of my house. Now I don’t have a proper writing desk in the house so I tend to sit at the kitchen table or, in this case, at the desk in our bedroom.
I found an old chair from the lounge and set to work, just happy that my extremities had not succumbed to frostbite. Two days later, I was in agony. My shoulder had frozen and my neck was so stiff that driving was becoming a real issue. I persevered, however, assuming that I just needed to get used to my temporary set-up.
Big mistake. Huge. Colossal.
I was now in so much muscular pain that I couldn’t even bear to open my laptop. Not great when you make your living as a writer.
Not great when your husband comes home to see that you now resemble Uncle Fester.
A Solution Unfolds
I decided to try and find an answer to my agony. As if by magic, I saw a blog post by an online mentor of mine, Joanna Penn, discussing the importance of being a healthy writer. In the post, she had highlighted her own experience of a standing desk and my interest was peaked.
Using the information from Joanna and some advice from a Google search, I created my own standing desk using box files and large, hard-backed books. It wasn’t fancy, but I was desperate.
As the days and weeks went on, my neck pain slowly began to ease. I was able to look left and right again (that certainly helped with the driving). I kept my standing desk for the rest of the winter and into the spring. As soon as I was confident that I wouldn’t develop hypothermia, I moved back into the cabin.
And did my standing desk come with me? It sure did.
Today I do a mixture of standing and sitting. Research from the British Medical Journal found that it is better to stand for a total of 2 hours, dispersed into small periods throughout the day. rather than standing for hours at a time.
Standing all day can be just as problematic as sitting.
How to Set Up Your Own Standing Desk
If like me, you realise that sitting all day is no longer the way, you might want to create your own standing desk. There are some really flashy ones out there if you have the dough to spend – even Ikea have jumped on the bandwagon.
But if not, you can easily use a standing desk converter such as this one or create one like I did. Just remember:
- Elbows must be at 90 degrees.
- The screen must be 20-30 inches away from your eyes.
- Your eyes should be level with the top third of the screen.
- Stand on a mat, e.g. a yoga mat, to help cushion your feet.
- You should be looking slightly down at the screen.
There are clearly many benefits from using a standing desk. The thought of setting one up can overwhelm some people, but hopefully you can see that it’s relatively easy. The health and mindset benefits far outweigh the initial hassles of setting up and who doesn’t want to be writing more productively and confidently?
I know I certainly do.
- Standing Desk Benefits and Standing Desk Precautions by Dr. Axe
- Standing Desk Calculator (gives you measurements based on your height)
- Proper Height for Standing Desks
- How to Set Up Your Workstation for Sitting or Standing
- 7 Benefits of a Standing Desk
- The Truth About Switching to a Standing Desk by Those Who Use Them
Do you have a standing desk? What benefits have you noticed? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments section below.