If there's one thing that writers do well, it is sitting. We are experts at it, simply because we get so much practice. We spend most of every day parked on our posteriors. Typically this is combined with a well refined hunch over the keyboard to provide the perfect recipe for a lifetime of tight shoulders and cricked necks.
This is not good. Humans weren't designed to spend most of our time sitting. If we were we wouldn't need expensive chairs with height, tilt and lumbar adjustment – none of which ever seem to be quite right. On top of which we now have those pesky scientists exposing numerous risks to our health from prolonged sitting.
So what to do? Those same scientists tell us that regular exercise is not enough. While exercise has its own benefits, and I do my fair share of it, extended periods of sitting are a problem no matter what is done between those periods. (The jury is still out on the relative risks and benefits of Pokemon Go.) Bottom line: we need to find a way to spend some time standing while we work.
My first attempt at dealing with this challenge was to stand for a few minutes in my pomodoro breaks. I've used the pomodoro technique for a few years now – an approach to work that gives me a short break every half hour – so it made sense to use those pauses to interrupt my sedentariness.
But it wasn't enough. Increased risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer aside, and despite having a good chair and reasonably sound ergonomic desk set-up, by the end of a typical work day my back and neck were telling me quite clearly that they had had enough. Headaches due to shoulder and neck tightness – something I've put up with for a long time – remained routine visitors.
Enter the standing desk. I'd heard about these for a while, including from my physiotherapist, but I was resistant to spending the money on one because a) they seemed expensive, b) they seemed very complicated with motors and hydraulic controls and c) my perception was that they were slow to raise and lower, which would make using them as intended less likely.
I'd read in a number of places that standing all day isn't much good for you either, and I knew my ageing back wouldn't put up with all standing for hours on end either, so any option had to allow both standing and sitting with a fairly swift transition between the two.
After looking a bit harder I found that some of my perceptions were wrong. There were actually a number of more affordable options, including the Varidesk. The Varidesk is not so much a whole desk as something that sits on top of an existing desk. It uses a relatively simple 'springs and counterweight' approach to raising and lowering (taking a couple of seconds to move up or down). And it had the added benefit that I could have one delivered in Australia and try it out for a month risk free.
Three months later, my new standing desk 'ain't goin' nowhere. I've become an advocate for the whole standing desk thing. While my neck is happier than than ever, the biggest revelation has been a noticeable boost to my productivity. Energy lows can be overcome simply by shifting from sitting to standing, or vice versa. My concentration levels are much higher, especially in that lazy straight-after-lunch period. The difference is really is quite remarkable.
If you're someone who spends most of your day sitting, I highly recommend giving this standing desk caper a go. Google 'diy standing desk' and you'll find a million (give or take) temporary and permanent home-made options. If you find that one of those works well for you, investing in a 'proper' option could well be worth your while.
As usual, if you have any questions or comments, please add a comment below or contact me.