We started off as enemies.
Eyeing each other across the room, me with some suspicion and reluctance, it with a nonchalant air of superiority.
My colleague and friend had been explaining the benefits and positive aspects of using the standing desk for many months now.
I wasn’t sure and tried to ignore the ongoing narrative.
However earlier this year we had a massive office restructure, where the NHS joined our happy team. With that came a large open plan office with new desks and chairs, and with it came a number of standing desks.
Historically standing desks have been for people who needed them, because of occupational health assessments, bad backs etc.
Why would I need one?
Why would I spend my whole day working standing up?
I could be sitting down on a nice comfy chair.
However, being the open-minded person that I am, I did a bit of research about the benefits of using a standing up desk.
Well, I changed my mind.
Some interesting statistics:
Did you know that we spend about 40% of our whole life at work?
That is a lot of life.
If like me, you spend a lot of your time in an office environment, typing reports or having meetings, you spend most of that sitting down.
Surprisingly our bodies were not built to be sitting down so much of the time (see reference below 3).
Our bodies are supposed to be standing up and moving around.
If you take the average working day of between 6 to 9 hours a day and say 80% of that time is spent sitting down, for an average week we could be spending anywhere between 35 and 40 hours sitting down.
Include that with sitting in traffic or on a train, sitting at the dinner table, eating meals, sitting on the sofa, watching television.
You get the idea.
We spend a lot of time sitting down.
Sitting down has long term effects on our health and body, sitting down for long periods is literally killing us, as it has been found to be linked to increased risk of weight gain, heart disease, and blood circulation illnesses, such as blood clots and strokes (see below 1 &2).
Sitting for long periods can also mean difficulties with our back health, headaches, stiff shoulders, spinal damage, all of this leading to a shorter life span (see below 3).
All of these health conditions or lower-level impacts on our health can lead to us feeling sluggish, it can increase stress, lethargy, poor concentration, poor performance and lower happiness levels in general.
All because we are sitting down.
Even standing for 1 hour a day releases the stress on our spines caused by sitting all day, helping improve lower back pain, preventing neck problems and overall health improvement.
So that’s a great thing right?
The improvement in blood circulation and flow means you get more oxygen to your muscles and your brain, your energy levels continue to stay at a higher level, and you don’t get those dips in the day.
Standing desks contribute to helping us to burn anywhere up to 30,000 more calories per year from an average working day, spending a couple of hours each day standing up.
You can do all of the running, cycling and GYM work you can for pockets of time during your week, but if you’re sitting down for over 35 HRS a week, this won’t make much of a difference to your overall health and life.
Now I have your attention, there is something we can do about it.
You can do all of the running, cycling and GYM work you can for pockets of time during your week, but if you're sitting down for over 35 HRS a week, this won't make much of a difference to your overall health and life.… Click To Tweet
You want to do something about it, don’t you?
And that’s something comes in the form of a standing desk.
Back to my story.
So I had to go.
These desks were the automatic machine up and down style desks.
You press a button and it makes a noise and it goes up and down. Quite fun really.
One afternoon, late in the afternoon when there was hardly anyone in the office, and I wouldn’t be noticed standing there like an idiot, for everyone to see.
I pressed the button and moved the desk up.
And at that moment, my working life changed.
Now at this point, I must add that hardly anyone really was using the standing up desks.
Most people were too shy or not interested.
I started off standing for just an hour.
And after that hour, yes my legs ached a bit, but I felt surprisingly alert, tingly, refreshed, and I felt like I can do anything.
Usually, at that time of the day, I am packing up and ready to go home.
But I could have gone on for another 2 hours.
So it went from there.
I usually come in early to the office, so I started to get to the standing desk early, put it up and work at it standing up until my legs had had enough.
It went from a couple of hours in the morning to standing up all morning, with a break at lunchtime sitting down, and then standing up all afternoon.
It became a bit of an addiction.
I even had a few competitions going with a friend of mine to see which of us ‘manly men’ could stand the longest. I did quite well in the standing stakes.
But I noticed over the weeks that I didn’t have those afternoon lulls in energy, concentration, lethargy or stodginess that sometimes you feel.
I started clenching my leg and backside muscles whilst standing, giving myself a cheeky little workout.
My back felt freer, less tense.
My shoulder and neck muscles felt less tension because I was standing and not leaning forward.
And I arrived home from work feeling fresher, more able to interact with my family because I didn’t feel so sluggish.
Overall I felt great.
Things took off then, everyone else noticed what I was doing, and everyone started to clamour for the standing desks.
That it became a bit of a competition trend.
But a good-natured one.
Everyone else reported the same sorts of physical and mental impacts.
When I started to work at home, I decided to invest in a standing desk which was both flexible and cheap.
You can buy a standing desk from anywhere between £150 to £600 for a good quality one.
And if that’s what you want, then great.
I wanted something that fitted in with my current office at home situation.
So I went for an environmentally friendly, cardboard standing desk, a desk converter.
I didn’t want to fork out a lot of money if it didn’t work out. Additionally, I’d only bought my existing desk last year and didn’t want to waste money on a new desk already.
So I bought one.
I’m just getting used to it, but I love it already.
What are the benefits?
The beauty of this type of flexible standing desk is that you can take it with you wherever you go.
You can use in your kitchen, dining room, library, coffee shop tables if they don’t mind, anywhere really.
Even hotel rooms.
Any downsides to the cardboard desk?
Not really, I’ve been using it for about 2 weeks now.
All going well.
I use it for 3 days solid and then sit down for one day and out doing other activities for the 5th day.
I did notice my legs felt good and firm.
The desk itself seems strong and solid when set up properly.
It is after-all cardboard… so if I were transporting it around I’d want a protective case otherwise it’d get knocks and bashes on it.
But the place where you have your wrists for the mouse and keyboard takes my weight and hasn’t compressed at all.
So I think with weekly use, I’d get at least 2 years out of it if I treat it well.
I also use a mouse pad to stop any natural skin oils from wrist making a nasty ‘stain’ on the lovely cardboard. I’m a bit fussy like that.
Standing and working is like drinking coffee all day, it gives you a rush, but without the post-coffee, caffeine crash.
I’ve come to the conclusion that…
Standing desks are the future.
Do not sit down, unless you have to.
Overall from my own experiences and observation of others, you feel less stressed, more positive and your own performance at work improves, which means you’re more effective as a worker.
Overall, you focus. You use your working time well. And waste your life staring at the window in a foggy haze.
The beauty of this type of cardboard desk is that you can then quickly remove it to sit down as you wish.
Believe me, I am keeping my weight down, I feel fitter than I did in my twenties, I have more energy to train when I get home, and I feel that I am more productive whilst at work.
This is a no-brainer.
Get a standing desk today. It is the best thing you can do for your own health.
If you want to read more of my musings and articles have a look here on my blog on the Axe your 9 to 5 website.
Or if you want to see what education I am getting that is changing my life around and getting out of the 9 to 5 by building my own online business, there are 7 free videos that will blow your mind.
They will show you that there are alternatives out there that any person can achieve if they want to. Act here for the videos.
So, what do you do to keep healthy at work? To keep productive?
Have you tried a standing desk, what did you think?
Tell us if you are going to give it a go.
Leave a comment below and let me know.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Take back control.
1. 2012 Nov;55(11):2895-905. Sedentary time in adults and the association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death: systematic review and meta-analysis. Wilmot EG1, Edwardson CL, Achana FA, Davies MJ, Gorely T, Gray LJ, Khunti K, Yates T, Biddle SJ.