Stand, don't sit

October 8, 2012

Two weeks ago today I converted my existing seated desk into a standing desk, using the conversion idea I discovered four weeks ago at http://iamnotaprogrammer.com/Ikea-Standing-desk-for-22-dollars.html. I’m now using it all day every day. I had to switch to sitting toward the end of the first few days but adapted fully by the end of the first week. Total cost was around ~£30 including delivery from Ikea: £5 for each of the two Lack  tables, £3 for the Viktor shelf and £2 for each of the Valter brackets. The rest was for delivery.

Adjustment notes

Adjustment of the keyboard/trackball height is achieved by a) getting the position of the brackets relative to the coffee table legs approximately correct for your height, and then fine tuning it by adjusting the height of the desk itself. The desk pictured is the Galant system – which I’d previously been using as a seated desk for over a year – the legs provides tens of centimeters of adjustment.

Adjustment of the monitor is by virtue of the fact that mine has a height adjustable stand.

Assembly notes

I found that Gaffer tape & Blu-tack provide the ideal non-slip non-scratch interface between the Lack coffee tables and the Galant desk (see the third picture).

4.0x35mm screws worked well for fixing the brackets to the table legs and 3.5x25mm screws worked well for fixing the shelf to the brackets (they didn’t include any).

Motivation

Synopsis

> Mass of evidence suggests sitting is unhealthy > Current desk can be reversibly converted to a standing desk for ~£30 > Try standing desk to see if it can work.

Just because most people sit to use desks doesn’t mean it’s optimal. A parallel example where there is widely accepted evidence that the common technique is suboptimal is cycling – look around Cambridge or any cycling town and you’ll see many people pedaling with their heels and with their saddle too low. I first read about and took seriously the supposed benefits of standing desks (well actually about the problems with seated desks) a couple of years ago. At the time I was curious enough to investigate the ready made solutions but concluded that the costs were prohibitive (even once I’d put aside the doubt as to whether the idea had substance).

As a general rule in life I believe that prevention is better than cure, and so even though I don’t consider myself to be unhealthy, I am very much aware that there are long term health risks (metabolic and musculoskeletal) associated with inactivity, and when you spend upwards of 50+ hours a week working on software I certainly would be in that category.

That’s almost enough on motivation but it seems poignant to highlight these claims made in the primary source linked to by iamnotaprogrammer.com:

Its most striking finding was that people who sat more than 11 hours a day had a 40% higher risk of dying in the next three years than people who sat less than four hours a day. This was after adjusting for factors such as age, weight, physical activity and general health status, all of which affect the death risk. It also found a clear dose-response effect: the more people sat, the higher their risk of death.

A more anecdotal observation that contributes to my motivation for this “experiment” is that at every concert and festival I’ve attended in the last few years, I found that standing for hours at a time caused serious discomfort to the point that it detracted from enjoyment – indeed, with the three day Download Festivals I resorted to missing out shorter sets earlier in the days in order to ensure I could enjoy the headliners. Not ideal. So aside from the “I’m aware of evidence that sitting is associated with increased risk of metabolic disorders but not of evidence that standing is” factor, a more readily observable outcome of this will be whether I can stand for whole days at a time at Download 2013 (assuming I go, which I hope to) without getting fatigued to the point that it takes away enjoyment.