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My standing desk experiment (liangzan.net)
44 points by liangzan on Sept 30, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

I used a standing desk at work for about four months earlier this year. I didn't like it because:

1. My feet would hurt from standing up all the time, which interfered with my concentration.

2. The desk was a continuous source of questions from coworkers. People would ask me how I built it, how much it cost, what benefits I've observed, and a ton of other stuff. I answered so many questions that I could go and sell stand-up desks for a living if I wanted.

3. It cost me 50 bucks in parts (from Home Depot) and 2.5 hours to build. I didn't have any previous carpentry experience, so I just nailed six wooden legs to a 1.5 x 4 feet board - it was basically a coffee table that I put on top of my existing table at work. While I saved a bunch of money, the end product wasn't sturdy enough to reliably support a laptop, a phone and an LCD monitor (plus my forearms) for extended periods of time. Occasionally it would start wobbling and I would need to hammer in the nails a little bit.

In the end I gave up because I decided that the potential health benefits were not worth the discomfort and the regular interruptions.

I decided that the potential health benefits were not worth the discomfort

Rule of thumb, if a posture is causing you discomfort you are probably not reaping any health benefits.

This is with the notable exception of muscular discomfiture because your muscles have been allowed to grow weak, e.g. sitting up straight.

Did you consider a height adjustable desk?

I work alone, so it's not too embarrassing having an electronic desk. I have noticed that my legs ache less. I stand for about 1/3 of the day usually.

Or just get a tall desk chair. They make desk chairs that are tall like bar stools for standing desks. (http://goo.gl/5zMCq) Then you can stand when you want or sit when you want. Pulling the chair up seems easier than raising/lowering a desk

it takes about 3 seconds to lower or raise my (electric) height adjustable desk. I got it for £200 off ebay. You can just about see the mechanism on this post about my workspace http://qiip.me/edlea/blogger/post/4019

The feet are the killer. I had the same problem too. I live in NYC so I walk a lot in addition to standing all day. I found that wearing running shoes would help somewhat. Also getting a gel mat to stand on helped reduce fatigue. To be honest, the feet thing is my biggest long term issue. I wonder if it just goes away?

I don't have the science but I have been standing at my desk for over a year now.

My advice is: keep it loose, keep moving around, take lots of breaks. If you were standing, sit for a bit. If you were sitting, walk for a bit. Don't stay in one position (even if it's a good position) for any long time. Keep your arms and head at proper and comfortable heights. Keep good posture.

"The desk was a continuous source of questions from coworkers."

FAQ on your Intranet? Their interest indicates a desire for change in work practices.

It'll be better if you actually systematically collect quantitative data over a month and upload it to a github repository. You also do it regardless of what experiment you're running. That way you will be able to see your weight before a particular experiment and what's the result of your experiment afterward. Also, if you logged what you eat, you may be able to rule out the hypothesis that you simply ate more.

This is exactly what I have done for my walking 10K steps experiment: http://kibabase.com/articles/self-quantification#data

The data collected are my weight, steps count, blood pressure and pulse rate. The blood pressure and pulse rate are added after 21 days into my logging effort, since it is my policy to add a new set of data every 21 days.(Next will be blood sugar level)

Although, I have yet to analyze or present the data from my walking 10K steps a day experiment.

Cool experiment! Have you thought about measuring your waking body temperature as well (as an indication of your basal metabolic rate) ? What are you using to measure your blood pressure?

>>measuring your waking body temperature as well (as an indication of your basal metabolic rate)

This would be quite meaningless, since there would be too many other variables to control. The average human body temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but fluctuates throughout the day by as much as 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Our bodies are cooler in the morning and warmer in the afternoon. In addition to level of physical activity, there are many other factors that affect the body's temperature, such as hunger, level of sleepiness, whether the person is sick, etc.

Basically I really doubt you'd see any kind of measurable change in the body's temperature just from standing up all day.

Cool experiment! Have you thought about measuring your waking body temperature as well (as an indication of your basal metabolic rate) ?

I haven't thought of that and I don't know of a good way of measuring that. Currently, I only count the total cumulative steps roughly in a 24 hours period.

What are you using to measure your blood pressure?

I just use a blood pressure cuff.

If you want to know about my process for selecting tools and using them, see the section on tool on my essay I linked to in the original post.

I just use a blood pressure cuff.

I was wondering what kind of cuff. The electronic ones or the old-school ones? (My original question was too vague, sorry about that.)

As for the wake up temperature, measure your temperature as soon as you wake up (keep an electronic thermometer on your bed table.) Some people also measure it 3/6/9 hours after waking as well.

It's tough to take your own blood pressure with a manual sphygmomanometer and stethoscope (not enough hands...).

An electronic pressure cuff.

Do you measure these at the same time of the day?

I measure them roughly around the same time.

Ergonomically, this experiment had some problems:

• the photo shows a large monitor, presumably used while continuing to type at the laptop keyboard, off to a side angle. Having your typing-hands/torso and eyes/neck at differing angles can be very stressful for the head/neck.

• the author notes that because of a tendency to "edge closer to the desk when I stand" resulting in eyes "too close to the computer screen", he placed his floor mat further from the desk. If the natural, comfortable standing position was close to (or even leaning against) the desk, he should have pushed the screen back to accommodate that position -- not forced himself to stand further away.

Whether seated or standing, face both your keyboard and main monitor at the same direct (perpendicular) angle. Also when seated or standing, adjust the position of the screen or keyboard to accommodate your preferred posture, not the other way around.

I have a cubicle and a lab area at work where I do hardware/software development, which means a large portion of my work involves a computer. I decided to try a standing desk about two years ago, however, I didn't want to commit fully and we don't have desks that raise and lower automatically. I decided the best solution would be convert my lab workstation to standing. I built something to hold mouse and keyboard at proper height and raised my monitors/docking station to eye level. I also added a 3/4" textured mat to stand on and keep a set of comfortable shoes at work.

My findings are that I am more alert standing up, however, I focus better on documentation while sitting down, so I alternate between the two throughout the day. Having both standing and sitting desks seemed to be optimal since a proper sitting desk chair can be more comfortable than a tall chair at a standing desk.

Awesome for trying out a standing desk.

Take a look at this article which has a picture of what your posture should look like: http://www.tinkeringmonkey.com/site/do-your-back-a-favor-get...

Likely problems I see with your set up:

* Keyboard too high * Monitor too low and off to the side

You'll probably be looking down and to the left, and certainly would if the keyboard is the right height so your arms are at a 90 degree angle.

I built one of these:


and I've been using it since early July and spend most of my day at it. It has significantly helped how my back feels by the end of the day. It's plenty sturdy (I actually bought two of the tables: one for my monitor and keyboard, the other I cut the legs down to the same height as the keyboard on the other table. I put my laptop on this one).

I also have a Steelcase Leap chair I bought in February which helped with the back too. I still use it for writing in my notebook every couple of hours.

I stand barefoot on a cheap backpacking foam pad which I cut in half. I keep a pair of flipflops at my desk if I need to run around the office. Every so often I'll do some leg stretches. I'm considering buying a quality antifatigue mat, but I'm making this work for now.

I switch between a seated desk, and a standing desk improvised out of an ikea shelving unit. Very simple, I just put my laptop on top, and have a power cord at each location.


(The pictures were for a reddit minimalism post, hence the bookshelf pictures)

I got the foot soreness too. Switching fixed it, as did wearing footwear. I plan to get a mat, I've heard that helps too. My floor is hardwood.

I'm much less likely to goof off when standing. Posture feels good, and I like that I can move easily.

My one bad habit is slouching if I get tired. A sign I should sit down.

I'm not actually sure whether the recommended ergonomics matter a whole lot but it seems that your keyboard and screen heights while standing are not as they should be. According to most people, a standing desk setup should look something like this: https://img.skitch.com/20120619-qqtq8nf6agxxk29cg9bsih8biq.p...

I'd recommend, in this case, just making sure your laptop is at the right height, and getting a separate keyboard and mouse for lower down. Again, I'm not sure whether this actually makes a big difference, and if you're liking what you're doing now and it's not hurting I can't imagine it's terrible, but just some advice.

No, I agree - you're right. My screen is lower than it ought to be. It's a trade-off I make for working on the laptop.

I do make an effort to lower my eyes, not my neck.

At home, I've been standing or walking on a treadmill for about a year. I find walking actually easier on the feet. My current 'desk' is a prototype of 2×4s and plywood, which I plan to replace with something nicer (with a matched 'skin' for the treadmill) soon, now that I've settled on positions for monitor and keyboard. The treadmill (purchased used) has the upper section removed so as not to interfere with the desk and keyboard, and the controls set off to one side.

I do the standing thing at home, sit down when working at clients.

The biggest thing I've noticed is that I'm less likely to dick around on reddit or hackernews if I'm standing, so it's been a boon to beating procrastination which I'm prone to do.

I've also lost weight, but I'm not sure if that's related at all due to a diet change.

It took me a few weeks for my back to stop being stiff when I sat. Massage therapy helped. Taking breaks is key.

I wear running shoes when standing and haven't noticed much pain in my feet, if any at all.

I have been behind my home-made standing desk for over 2 years now; I almost never stand still though; I walk in-place. I feel so much more healthy than I ever felt that I will definitely never stop doing that. It just feels better. In the summer I move everything outside and then it feels even better and very natural somehow. I feel less stressed as well, especially in the summer months.

One piece of advice to all using standing desk setups. Make sure your display is at or slightly below eye level and keyboard/mouse at elbow level. This makes a huge difference - particularly not having to stare down at a screen which puts undue strain on the neck.

And while you're at it - get rid of that useless caps lock key and remap it to a control key - lot more ergonomically friendly.

How about the FitDesk? Exercise bike with a Desk! I used it to train for a 100 mile bike ride. Now I use a FitDesk everyday to work and play my favorite video games. Oh, at 47 years old I now ride metric centuries 5 - 6 times a year. Just read the reviews on amazon.com. #1 rated exercise bike (based on reviews)

I think the best set up is the standing desk + elliptical/treadmill set up. That combines all the best research of a standing desk and the benefits of very low movement to increase brain activity.

All day on a treadmill is going to be bad on your knees, hips and heels. If you running/jogging make sure you really pay attention to your form if you are going for that long (which is going to conflict with your concentration). If you are walking, you have to be even more cognizant of your form because walking typically involves constant heel-striking.

Elliptical might be a bit better, but now you are sitting in an uncomfortable seat and the repetitive motion will get you sore quickly.

But they are all looking _down_ at the monitor all the time.

I would get a crick in my neck doing that for extended periods of time.

How do people handle that?

You should have your monitor adjusted such that looking straight ahead, you see the top of it. You shouldn't have to look down.

You must do ankle rolls and calf stretch every 30 minutes while using standing desk.

I concentrate better sitting down, but there really is nothing better for my back.

Try this www.staandupdesk.com it's simple and cheap.

I've been "standing" for about 1.5 yrs now.

I started out with a Geekdesk at home and then also got an ergodepot desk for work - they're about $900 and $600 respectively (incl shipping) and worth every penny. THese desks are more expensive options because they are height adjustable. Height adjustable is the key bc it allows you to sit (not at a bar stool, but a real office chair).

- My "default" position is standing (with an amusingly named "anti-fatigue mat" which my dog tends to get fatigued and sleep on regularly). When my legs are tired, I sit. I can do this quickly and without any strain in my neck, back or arms because the desks are motorized. I might switch positions a few times a day.

- Phone calls are always taken standing. Certain tasks that require a lot of intense focus I might sit for. At home I'll watch a TV show standing, for example. Even after a run, I'll stand.

- I'm a runner and hate sitting for long periods. I also have bad posture and have had some minor back pain from sitting. That all went away with the desk.

- POSTURE! It's so easy to sit and slouch or crane your neck or whatever. Standing doesn't fix that but it certainly makes it easier to have better posture without thinking about it.

- A standing desk makes it incredibly easy to "get situated". Just walk up to it, do something, and walk away. Much less latency than sitting at a big chair, shuffling up to the desk, doing something, and then getting up from the chair.

- I love answering questions about my standing desk (yes, I can be an amazing sales person!) because I think everyone should have one. Remember, I'm talking about a height adjustable desk, not these $30 ikea deals on bricks. The point is, you can always go back to sitting normally so it's not a major commitment and people need time to adjust. To me, every office should outfit H.A. desks so employees can make their own decision.

- The health benefits are pretty well established. Read the NYT article http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/29/sunday-review/stand-up-for... And look up the studies that discuss how enzymes for breaking down fat shut down when you sit.

- Definitely do NOT get a standing desk "to lose weight". That just seems silly to me. So maybe you'll burn ~100 calories more per day but most likely won't see anything noticable. This is a long term solution. The noticeable thing is that your leg muscles are actively engaged through the day, it's easier to activate various muscle groups bc you'll switch legs, stretch, etc. The major benefits apparently are with your heart but that ain't something you'll notice in the near term.

- I Love having "meetings" around my desk. Everyone stands, we look at the screen easily (no crowding of big chairs with arm rests) and things just stay more focused.

> Short video (of me) about Geekdesk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWVaKP7obbk&feature=g-upl

> Longer video (of me) describing 5 tips for posture incl standing desk but also adjusting a keyboard and monitor correctly, and even changing your keyboard layout: http://t.co/fi3DJbI3

> And of course, I am the ever-judgemental Dwight in my office :) http://t.co/pHDSWHyf

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