For the last couple of years I’ve been coming across articles extolling the benefits of standing desks. Due to being a digital nomad however, I’ve found it difficult to actually get one and try it out. Finally in our condo building in Chiang Mai I found the perfect place to experiment with standing desks.
During the past few weeks I’ve been switching between a standing desk and a traditional seated desk in the same office.
Claimed Benefits of Standing Desks
Before I share my experience, lets take a look at the claimed benefits of standing desks:
- More energy
- Improved posture
- Reduced risk of diseases (cancer, diabetes)
- Lower long-term mortality risk
Perhaps more worryingly is the fact that research has indicated that sitting is killing us, shortening our lifespans by up to 15 years. Sitting has also been referred to as the new smoking in terms of harmful effects.
Many people try to restore balance in their lives by sitting for six hours at work and then heading to the gym afterward, however this does not seem to do the trick. Evidence suggests that the negative effects of extended sitting can’t be countered by brief bouts of strenuous exercise.
Why Did I Want to Try it Out?
Obviously the benefits mentioned above, together with the risks of sitting all day should be enough for anyone to try standing desks. I did however have a few extra reasons for trying this out:
- I am trying to lengthen my hamstrings and spending the whole day sitting is one of the sure fire ways of getting short hamstrings.
- My concentration and comfort levels were waning after a few hours at my desk.
- I’m always up for anything that improves my health and posture.
My Experience so Far
Here’s what I noticed in these few weeks that I’ve been experimenting with a standing desk.
Productivity and Mood
I love listening to music while working (mostly classical, ambient, jazz and euphoric trance genres). I also love dancing and have a natural instinct to move according to the melodies and beats I’m hearing. Being in a standing position I could very easily do my discreet dancing thing while working.
This did not negatively affect my productivity, on the other hand I found it bolstered my mood tremendously and helped me stay focused. I found myself sticking to jazz and euphoric trance while in a standing position, then switching to classical and ambient while reverting back to the seated desk.
Standing up and being in a good mood definitely helped me keep a better posture, especially when compared to the typical hunched position we adopt while sitting down. So a standing desk is a win from this point of view as well.
Fitness and Energy
Being in a standing position and continuously moving proved to be a boon for my energy levels. I also found it easier to move around, perform a few stretches and some yoga routines while in a standing position. Nothing that will give me an immediate improvements in my fitness levels, but something that might be crucial from a long term perspective.
Foot and Shoulder Soreness
My feet get sore incredibly quickly when standing. That’s the number one reason why I don’t go to concerts which have no seating. By the time the band comes out my feet would be killing me and I would be in no mood for anything other than a comfortable couch and getting my feet off the floor.
This is why I was very doubtful about my abilities to withstand hours at my standing desk. Apparently a good mat is essential when working at a standing desk, but I haven’t used one till now.
My feet have become sore while standing, however the fact that I tend to be continuously shifting around rather than in a stationary position has helped make the whole thing bearable. I’m hoping that my feet will become more resistant with time.
I also experienced shoulder soreness, but that was to be expected given the ergonomics of my setup. The screen should be at eye level while since I was using a laptop it was way further down than it should be, hence the shoulder/upper back pain from having to look down all the time. So I don’t blame the standing desk for this, hopefully I’ll be able to improve my setup later on this year when we move to Barcelona.
In the article Why I killed my standing desk Mikael from web/mobile agency Crew describes his experience with standing desks, which resulted in him going back to a modified version of the traditional seated desk (legs up, back leaning backwards). It’s a very interesting article citing numerous studies, and I’ll be referring back to it as I continue this experiment.
This is by no means a concluded experiment with definite results, however I felt that I should share my experience thus far anyway. I’ll be experimenting with standing desks throughout the rest of the year and will probably post again about this topic at a later stage.
Right now however, my feeling is that having both a standing and a modified sitting desk is the way to go, switching between the two as needed.
Desk and mat comparisons over at Workwhilewalking