Taking a Stand

18 Apr
There’s something special about today’s post. I wrote it standing up.

I can hear it now: “Bika, I can pick my nose while standing. Grats, I guess.” I understand. It doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, and that’s because it shouldn’t be. (We’ll just pretend for a moment that I can walk and chew gum at the same time, k?) The human body isn’t designed for sitting on its butt all day, so why should standing to do office tasks be the exception rather than the rule?

The first time I saw people promoting treadmill desks–they’re a real thing, swear to google–I rolled my eyes hard enough to tie my optic nerves into knots and dismissed the idea without a second thought. I didn’t think it was a bad idea, but I couldn’t see myself first buying a treadmill, then getting on it every time I wanted to write, chat or play video games. I like my exercise the way I like breathing: Easy and free, with zero brainpower requirements.

I know exercise is good for my health. It’s the reason I started a garden this spring; I also own Just Dance II for the Wii. I try to flail in imitation of the dancers on screen at least a few times a week and it’s fun, because it doesn’t feel much like work.

I do not run. Don’t even ask.

Basically I’m lazy, so lazy, and my heels instinctively dig in at the mere mention of the dreaded E-word. Exercise on purpose? Oh, screw that. My ideal workout is one that tricks my lazy brain into thinking it’s not doing anything at all, which is why I spent about an hour this morning scouring the house for structural materials and using them to convert my crappy old studio desk into a standing desk.

See, last week I read this article about the dangers of sitting. People who sit most of the day, regardless of external factors like whether they exercise or smoke, are over 50% more likely to die of a heart attack. Not only that, their bodies start to take on the shape and posture of a bag of pudding. Shoulders hunch, hips tilt, and even your butt muscles get stupid and start to atrophy if you sit around too much.

Combine this knowledge with the fact that I both hate my desk chair and prefer trying things that feel more like Doing Science than making a lifestyle change, and you end up with something like the Frankenstein rig below.

It’s not pretty, but it was free (free in that I had all this junk lying around already), and I love free shit. One 2’x4’ wood panel, two packages of copy paper, four bargain-bin hardcover books of roughly identical thickness, four 19 oz. cans and a pair of wool socks was enough to get me started on The Stand. (The posture, not the book, though I sure could have used a few copies of it to prop up this monstrosity.)

After using it, my feet are tired and I anticipate a lot of various aches and pains as my body adjusts to doing things differently, but it isn’t anything I can’t handle. I noticed almost immediately that I was way more likely to shift and walk around, wiggle to the music in my headphones, and just generally be more active when I worked at a standing desk than when I sat down to do all my computer-related stuff. I wouldn’t call it exercise, exactly, but it’s a step in the right direction.

And you know what? I actually like getting off my butt.

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15 Responses to “Taking a Stand”

  1. Emily April 18, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    A friend at one of the museums I volunteer at was telling me about this one day. It made me glad that I work retail and am on my feet all day.

    I think an added benefit to this sort of set-up is that you won’t spend hours and hours and hours playing computer games. Not that they’re bad, just that it’s not great to spend 6 hours playing in one go.

    • Bika April 18, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      That’s definitely a good point. I don’t know if I could/would have done this if I still had four 3-hour gaming commitments every week. Right now I just have one, and I have no idea how it will go. At least I’ve got five days to get used to it before I have to test it! 🙂

  2. Itanya Blade April 18, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Now if I could only find a way to stand at my computer while elevating my legs.

    Maybe I can hang upside down.

    • Bika April 18, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      And all the blood rushing to your brain would make you smarter!

  3. Steve – Kestrel's Aerie April 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Welcome to my world! 🙂 I converted back in January, and just last week, made a permanent modification to my home-built desk to a standing desk. There’s no going back now! Here are the before and after pics: http://goo.gl/7Hzyl (Picasa web album).

    • Bika April 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

      Awesome! I remember you talking about it at the time. I haven’t really left myself much of a sitting option at this point, which could be interesting… how long can you work standing before you just want a break?

      I love your use of shelves to prop up the platform. I’ll have to look into that once I’m sure I want to keep doing this–I raised the desk another 4 inches and I know I’m going to want those Stephen King books back someday.

      • Steve – Kestrel's Aerie April 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

        Generally, I can stand easily for a couple hours. However, I spent most of Saturday at the computer (WoW FTL :p), and my back was a bit sore, as were my heels.

        I strongly recommend a good anti-fatigue mat, even if you have a well-padded carpet. And I’m more comfortable wearing running shoes (because of the cushioning) than not wearing shoes.

      • Bika April 18, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

        Thanks for the tip 🙂 I think a mat will probably help a ton. My feet are so tired today!

  4. Caulle April 18, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    They actually offer this at work. It’s sort of makeshift, they basically raise the desk up as high as it can go and then add a 12″ riser to put your monitor and peripherals on. One day I might take them up on that and have them convert my desk to a standing desk.

    • Bika April 18, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

      That’s pretty cool of them to offer it! I bet you could always get them to revert it back to a regular desk if you decided it wasn’t for you, too.

      • Caulle April 18, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

        There are, unsurprisingly, a lot of game developers with bad backs in the industry.

        I used to get this intense pain in my shoulder from not sitting correctly. It’d get so bad sometimes I’d have to stop working for an hour. I finally had enough and just had to change my lifestyle. It was hard at first, but I don’t get the shoulder pain anymore and my posture has improved to the point the last photo of myself I posted on a forum at least 3 people said “Wow, you have really good posture”.

  5. Tryston April 19, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    Exercise balls (those bouncy ones that are fun to bounce on) are also great alternatives to the standard slouch-in office chair. Nothing exclaims your coordination to the world better than falling ass-over-teakettles backwards during those early morning gaming hours! 😀

    • Bika April 20, 2011 at 8:26 am #

      Bwahaha. Yeah, I don’t think I could use one of those without tipping over at least four times a day. Minimum.

    • Cynwise April 20, 2011 at 11:07 am #

      I’ve been using an exercise ball for the last few years, and I have to say I do like it much better than a normal office chair – but I found i was still slouching on it. My balance was great! But my posture wasn’t. 😦

      I just joined Bika in the standing office brigade, and … OMG my legs hurt.

      • Steve – Kestrel's Aerie April 20, 2011 at 11:39 am #

        My heels are what hurt. And I have a bit of a gimpy knee that aches if I stand too long.

        For me, the worst is that my back starts to ache after a while. However, I think there are two major factors contributing to that: First, I have more than a bit of a beer-belly; second, I have a slightly enlarged disk in my lower spine. Usually, it gives me no trouble–unless I do much lifting (even correct lifting) or bending, or standing.

        The key, I’ve found, is to take a break every hour or so: Sit down for a few minutes, or even walk around a bit. Oh: and don’t lock your knees. 😛

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