Stop Sitting, Start Living: How to Build a Standing Desk For Back Pain Relief
Note from Alex: Today’s article is a guest article from Clint Warren.
After hitting ‘rock bottom’ physically, mentally, and emotionally in 2008, I made a commitment to drastically change my lifestyle. In the time since, I’ve undergone a dramatic physical transformation – dropping weight, building muscle, and replacing tons of terrible habits.
Despite the steady improvements I was making, I read an article in 2011 that terrified me:
This wasn’t an isolated article either, it seemed like everywhere I looked there were similar studies being released.
I remember the sinking feeling thinking that despite all the ‘healthy habits’ I had developed, sitting for 8 hours per day was killing me. It was like going to the gym then smoking two packs of cigarettes afterwards (which I used to do also!).
Fortunately I read about one small tweak to my daily routine that could improve posture, increase core strength, sharpen focus, and eliminate ‘sitting time’ altogether: build a standing desk.
I wrote this guide to show you exactly how to get started with a standing desk and the benefits you can expect.
If you can afford the $300+ price tag, these are great choices, and at some point in the future I’ll probably spring for one. My budget was tight at the time and I wanted to get my feet wet first, so I opted for a simpler makeshift version – a coffee table on top of my existing desk:
When creating your standing desk, the main tips you need to follow for proper ergonomics are:
Keep the table at or slightly below elbow height
The computer monitor should be ~20-28″ from your face
The monitor should be tilted ~20 degrees away from you
As long as you can meet the above ergonomic criteria, feel free to get creative in your assembly! I’ve seen every type of setup imaginable, both online and in person – milk crates, cinder blocks, cardboard boxes…whatever is needed to elevate the monitor and keyboard.
The First Day
The first day, my legs started getting tired pretty quickly. It reminded me of my days as a waiter, getting adjusted to being on my feet for hours at a time. This seemed to be a common complaint, but there was an easy solution:
For $67 (I went for the more expensive version) the anti-fatigue mat allowed me to stand for several hours without feeling any tension in my legs. I also took others’ recommendations and began to shift lightly from one foot to the other.
By having the coffee table on top of my desk, I could also sit and work from my laptop underneath. I would alternate 1 hour standing, 1 hour sitting throughout the day as I adjusted to the new desk, gradually increasing my standing time as I adapted.
Almost immediately I began to feel the benefits of working at my new desk, and the benefits only increased over time:
Lost Weight – All said, I’ve lost about 10 lbs since I installed my standing desk, without any adjustments to diet or exercise patterns.
More Energy – Typically I’d lose some energy in the afternoon, at which time I’d find myself slumped forward if I was seated. Because I am upright and shifting around, I have more energy throughout the day, especially after lunch.
More Focus – Subjectively, I find that I’m much more focused and productive while standing. I’m able to write more effortlessly and get more done.
Better Posture – I’ve been fortunate not to have many back problems, but my posture has improved significantly. I’m more upright and as a result more confident. People actually compliment me on my posture.
A feeling of satisfaction at the end of the day – There’s something to be said for feeling like I’m putting in an honest day’s work when I’m standing all day. It just feels better at the end of the day to sit down and relax – like I’ve ‘earned it’ more, rather than sitting all day then going home and sitting some more.
Now that I’ve gotten used to my standing desk, I can’t imagine working without it. If you’re looking for one adjustment you can make that will dramatically impact your health and productivity – this is it! Feel free to leave a comment below with any questions or feedback – I’m here to help!