If sugar is the new smoking when it comes to things we put into our body that are bad for us, sitting is the new significant risk factor for what we do with our bodies. Sitting for long period of our days can lead to cancer, heart disease and a host of other health conditions.
Unfortunately, we live a largely sedentary life. Many people work in offices or in front of computers all day. At night we can spend hours sitting while eating, using electronics or watching TV. Most of us don’t think twice about the amount of time we spend per day sitting down — but as research increasingly shows, the dangers of “Sitting Disease” are quite real.
Breaking Down the Numbers
You might think, like I did, that if you exercise often it will somehow counter the fact that you sit most of the day. But it doesn’t. According to the American Cancer Society, working out several times a week won’t wipe out the negative health impacts of sitting for long periods each day: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity… the list goes on and on.
As TIME reports, a study earlier this year found that people who sit for long periods of time were 24 percent more likely to die from health problems than people who sat less. Another research project found that standing more often can add two extra years to your life expectancy.
While the long-term effects are serious, the short-term effects are also noteworthy. In an experiment conducted with the University of Chester, BBC News found that your heart rate increases when you stand more, as does your metabolism. This can aid with things like circulation, blood glucose control and triglyceride and fat levels in the blood stream. I have found this to be true myself. When I wear my Apple Watch and use it to monitor my heart rate, I’ve noticed it has 10 beats more per minute when I’m standing at my desk versus sitting down.
You also burn more calories when you’re standing — around 50 more per hour. That may not sound like a lot, but when you add it up over time, it makes a big difference. University of Chester researcher John Buckley says standing for just 3 hours a day is “the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year.” And you can still get your work done the same as you would if you were sitting — you just need the right kind of desk to do it.
Ten marathons a year while you’re dominating your industry, helping others and making money? After reading facts like these, I was ready to integrate standing more into my workday. Which meant it was time to find a good standing desk.
The Search for the Perfect Standing Desk
During my research, I found mixed reviews on most motorized standing desks. The more expensive ones had the most favorable reviews and best instructions on customizing the desk to fit your needs, but I wasn’t ready to spend thousands of dollars on a desk, standing or not. So I tried a few makeshift options. But I soon learned that figuring out the mechanics of your daily routine and electronic equipment to determine the right height for a DIY standing desk isn’t easy.
First I bought desk converter, which is a small wooden stand that converts a regular desk to a standing desk. I placed it one side of my desk and walked to that side whenever I wanted to stand while working. It was an inexpensive solution, but there wasn’t enough room for my hands and wrists to rest or move around comfortably on the small desktop. I also had to unhook my Macbook Air from the external monitor, take it off its stand and move it, then put it all back together several times a day whenever I switched from standing to sitting. This created an unnecessary disruption in my workflow as I get caught up in projects and don’t want to stop and redo my setup several times a day.
I thought about trying the “two desks” solution: one tall, waist-level desk, and one regular desk for when I felt like sitting. When my oldest daughter attended Dev Bootcamp, they had all the students use this type of taller desk with stools, and it worked for them. I was going to try it myself but realized it would create the same obstacle as the desk converter did: I’d be moving everything midstream many times a day, which would be irritating and disruptive.
After more research, I finally decided to buy the IKEA BEKANT sitting/standing desk. It’s a clean-looking, motorized desk with a simple two-button control to move the desktop up and down as desired. When I want to sit, I can sit. When I want to stand, I can stand. No need to change anything about my setup; it’s just an easy button push to go from one position to the other.
I’ve had this desk for six months now, and I love it. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good standing desk, although there are some tips I’d give to anyone considering it.
Tips & Notes
- Make sure to get a floor mat. It gives your feet and back support while you’re standing. I use this one.
- Take it easy when you first start using the standing desk position. This is advice I’d read but didn’t take, and I definitely regretted it. Ease into how much time you stand each day once you get your shiny new standing/sitting desk. I was so excited about using mine that I stood for most of the first few days, and I paid the price afterwards. I felt like I was back in another lifetime when I was a department store buyer standing for 8+ hours a day during the holiday season. (In other words: sore.)
- Stalk your IKEA’s inventory. I visited the IKEA website each week to check the inventory in my local store. Things might be different in your area, but a salesperson at my store told me, “These desks come in and go out the same day.” If you see the desk in stock at your store, hightail it over there and purchase it ASAP. The day I got my desk, there were six in stock when I checked the site and only one left by the time I got to the store.
- Be forewarned: this is not your typical IKEA furniture-building project. This item has a motor, power cord and expandable legs. Don’t purchase it unless you’re a rockstar at building things or have someone on your team who is. Fortunately, my husband and youngest daughter are good are building physical things and helped me put my desk together.
- Make sure your monitors and desktop products are balanced. If they aren’t, the desk can wobble when you’re moving it up into the standing position.
- Use coasters. The wood finish looks classy, but it doesn’t do well with rings from coffee cups or other beverages. I use Wonder Woman coasters my friend Mary Beth Franklin gave to me after I finished a challenging transformation project with Kiplinger’s magazine years ago. They make me happy and inspire me to keep going every time I use them.
- Go for the largest desktop size your office can fit. You’d be surprised how many tools and toys you’ll want on your standing desk, so get as much room for them as you can.
The Bottom Line
So, having done the research and used a standing desk myself, do I think it’s worth the investment and time to redo your office and desk setup?
Immediately after I started using my new standing/sitting desk, I noticed I had more energy during the day. I find that I move around more now. For many creative projects, I’ll put on my headphones and listen to uplifting music that inspires me to move (okay, sometimes dance) even more. You’d be surprised how these small changes can make you feel more motivated, take-charge and ready to get things done.
My new desk helps me avoid that dreaded afternoon slump, keeps my energy levels up and somehow helps me feel more productive. It’s also one less thing to worry about that could be killing me. So it’s a win-win-win all around.