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Why and How I will switch to a stand-up desk

Sep 22, 2011

With all the hype in the past few years about our unnatural sedimentary lives killing us (if you missed it see the links at the end of this post) I decided that I am going to join the ranks of the standing. My position, pun intended, is that too much of a good thing quickly becomes a bad thing.

Too much sitting is bad. Too much standing is bad.

I really think the best position is one that is constantly dynamic. Of couse you can't be changing so much that it affects your work or concentration, but I think completely adjusting your position every 15-30 minutes is fine. Sometimes if you get in the zone and you go for longer its ok because you'll go back to changing more frequently shortly after, as long as it doesn't happen all the time.

I think you can also make micro adjustments subconciously, without breaking your train of thought, almost constantly if not at least every 15-30 seconds. For example if you are sitting, you can fidgit your legs, arms etc., just adjust your torso and try to always keep moving a little. I think one of the big benefits of standing is that it should make this much easier. Think of yourself the last time you stood for your national anthem, at a meeting or even in line at a store. I bet you constantly moved without even really knowing it. Most people aren't completely still while standing even if its just for a few minutes. When you are standing all day there is so much more movement you can do to stay dynamic compared to sitting and I think this is where standing will really shine.

Current Desk

My current desk will accomodate a standing position quite easily. I have the original jerker from Ikea and I will be able to raise it to the perfect height for me. I'll probably have to remove the top shelf, which is not a big deal. Here is a picture of my current desk and setup:

In case you are wondering I use a Microsoft natural ergonomic 4000 keyboard with a Logitech MX1100 mouse. The 3 monitors I have are setup as a reverse barbell, older viewsonic's @ 1680x1050 on the outside and a portrait samsung @ 1152x2048 in the middle. I only recently added a third monitor at home, just about a month ago, and at the same time I picked up 3 monitor arms to hold the monitors. I have never used monitor arms before, as until now I have always just made wooden stands for whatever desk I was at (work or home). If I knew sooner, I would have made this purchase a long time ago. I am definitely of the opinion that more of your money should go towards your desk, chair, monitors, keyboard and mouse than your actual computer hardware components - a topic for another day. The monitor arms purchase was easily one of my best, the flexibility in position they provide is great and will be particularly handy when raising my desk.

GelPro Plush Anti-fatigue mat

I was all ready to go when I thought what am I going to stand on. My flooring is a hard laminate so I am going to need something soft and absorbing to support me and should I wear running shoes? Socks? Bare feet? So after more online searching I realized there was a whole market for anti-fatigue mats. Commercially they are usually large and expensive and target stand up jobs (think assembly line, factories, etc) but for residential they target your kitchen where we tend to spend a lot of time standing preparing meals and cleaning. There are a lot of $20 - $40 mats on Amazon that claim to be anti-fatigue mats. I am not sure they are worthy of the name but following my own advice on where money should be spent and knowing this mat will effectively be replacing my chair I didn't think they would be adequate. It seems the best of the best anti-fatigue mats are made from gel rather than foam. I found gelpro.com, they sell custom made GelPro and GelPro Plush mats made from gel and they provided enough evidence for me that they would be better. On September 9 I ordered a 20x36 GelPro Plush Woven Teak mat. I also just found out that they make them when ordered so it does really take a couple of weeks to arrive, most of which is manufacturing time. At the time of this writing mine is in Windsor, ON so I expect to recieve it in the next few business days.

Keyboard positioning

I am 6' 3" tall. My desk will be set at 39" high. This gives me the option to put a reverse tilt (away from you) of about 45 degrees on the keyboard and have my arms and wrists in a perfect position. When you do the reverse tilt you generally have your keyboard height about 2" lower than you would if you just used a flat keyboard angle.

The beauty part about this height setting is I can easily prop the whole keyboard up those same 2" and set the reverse tilt to the normal 7 degrees using the provided support with the Microsoft natural keyboard 4000. This gives me 2 really good keyboard positions and I think I will frequently switch between them throughout the day.

Monitor positioning

Not much to say here I didn't say before. Get monitor arms. Short of that, whether sitting or standing make sure they are positioned correctly. Get monitor arms. From what I understand you want your eyes to be aligned with the upper half of your monitor screen. Get monitor arms.

Other suggestions I have read

Some other suggestions I have read that facilitate constant dynamic movement include using a 6" block under one leg at a time and shift legs every so often. I also read that you can stand on a balance board to really work your legs and core rather than standing alone. I suspect this is something that you need to work up to before you attempt a longer session.

Final thoughts and some light reading

I don't really have many expectations either way. I have read that for the majority who try it, they never go back. Apparently its pretty rough for the first 3 days, dramatically improves by the fourth day and by the end of the first week you don't realize you are standing any more. The other benefit that was pretty much unanimous was that it greatly reduced, if not completely removed, the typical mid afternoon drowsiness. A general feeling of more energy seemed to also be quite common - who doesn't need that?!?

I'll have more to report in the next few weeks as my mat arrives and I re-configure the desk. Until then I'll leave you with some light reading.

TheCareerDiva takes her blood pressure, pulse and weight and reports after 2 weeks: Video 1 Video 2 Video 3

Read the follow up to hear day 1 results... Day 1 of my move to a stand-up desk

Tricks for using the cobertura module with the Play Framework  Home Day 1 of my move to a stand-up desk  
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