As an accountant, my work is pretty much synonymous with “desk job.” Now that I’m solidly in my 40s, I’ve been noticing lots of new aches and pains. I’m certain much of it relates to stress and working too many hours for too many years (which I’ve been actively changing this year). Additional stress has lead to poor sleep, spotty workout schedules, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, and more than 12 hrs each day sitting on my ever-expanding butt.
Like many others, I’ve been reading recent articles around the new “standing desk” concept. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll see several articles describing sitting as the “new smoking,” and this infographic pretty much sums it up.
So yeah... it’s not pretty.
I started reflecting on my lifestyle. Even though I’ve been better about working out consistently, those few hours each week don’t really don’t put a dent in the fact that the vast majority of my waking hours are spent velcroed to my desk chair (or propped up on my laptop in bed). I decided I needed a fundamental lifestyle change if I wanted to combat these potential health risks. And since I have no desire to leave the super-awesome accounting company my husband and I have built, I decided to look into setting up my own standing desk.
Instead of getting a desk topper that would lift up my equipment by a foot or so or investing $1,000+ in a traditional standing desk, I decided to do something in between. Over the weekend, Scott and I went down to The Container Store and had someone help us design a custom desk setup using the Elfa system. They didn’t have quite all the pieces we needed in stock, so I had to hobble along with only half of my desk built. It wasn’t fully functional the way I wanted it (or pretty), but it was enough to get me started.
I also ordered a chair for my standing desk (I know - counterintuitive, huh?).
Now for the all important question - how do you transition to using the standing desk?
I decided to work up to standing for the bulk of the day over the next couple of weeks. I looked at it like athletic training. I’d spent the last 10 years (at least) teaching my body to sit still, and now I needed to realign and strengthen those under-used muscles.
On the first day, I stood for about four hours out of the day, but certainly not all at once. I decided to build up duration over time. In the morning, I intended to set the timer for 30 min increments - standing, sitting, standing, sitting… but in reality, I didn’t even need the timer. When I got to the point where the fatigue was basically too distracting, I’d sit. When I hit my limit, I just sat for the rest of the day, but I kept moving as much as possible (i.e., the whole family took the dog on a walk after dinner).
I expected my feet and legs to be sore the next morning (and they were), but not horrifically so, but I was surprised to also feel some soreness in my upper and lower back. I’m guessing that my posture was shifting… presumably for the better, and that’s what I was feeling.
Over the next two weeks, I did more of the same and just extended the time from standing for 30 min at a time to 45 min, 1 hr, and so on. I’m now a month into it, and I will stand for about an hour and a half before I realize that I’ve been standing for quite awhile and could probably use a break. I find that I tend to stand for the vast majority of the morning, and by around 3 pm, I’m usually done with my standing for the day. So overall, I’ve probably traded about five or six hours each day for standing during which I used to sit.
My intention with this change was not to eliminate sitting completely but rather to increase my movement overall. I’ve found that it’s true that objects in motion tend to stay in motion and objects at rest stay at rest. Just by standing, I find it easier to take quick breaks or run and grab something whereas I used to figure I’d just get whatever it was later… the next time I was up. When you’re standing for long periods, running downstairs to get something becomes a welcome change from standing still.