Regular readers of this blog will know that sitting for long periods of time is very bad for your health, regardless of how much you exercise. For the full details check out our 5-part series on sedentary physiology (a condensed version can be found at ScientificAmerican.com), or look over this very cool infographic.
While it’s pretty clear that sitting too much is bad for you, many of us in North America have jobs that force us to do just that. So what to do if you can’t quit your office job? There are a few fancy options (treadmill desks anyone?) but even if you can find yourself a cheap treadmill it still requires a lot of space and electricity. An easy alternative is a standing workstation – you’ll burn less calories than if you were using a treadmill workstation, but it also takes up a lot less room and costs almost nothing.
Here is what you will need:
1. A cheap desk. Personally I use an IKEA Dave laptop desk, which currently retails for $24.99.
2. Something to elevate the desk with. I use textbooks (being a grad student I have a fair number of these) but anything at all could be used for this – wooden blocks, bricks, old phone books, milk crates, you name it.
3. That’s it!
In my mind the Dave Laptop Table is ideal because it’s incredibly cheap, and also because it can be raised and lowered very easily. I have mine on a stack of books about 6 inches high. This means that at its maximum height the desk is perfect for working while standing, while at its lowest height it is ideal for working in a chair (for when I need a break, or for when someone else wants to use the desk who is not so keen on standing).
The above workstation is how I work at home, and I’ve used it regularly since we moved to our current apartment 5 months ago. I find my feet and back get a bit sore if I spend all day working at it non-stop, but it’s great for a few hours at a stretch. When I get tired I either lower it or just sit on the window-sill which happens to also be at a good height (I’ve heard other people say that a bar stool is also a good height for leaning on). Having the books on the floor is also handy as I can use them as a foot rest while I’m standing, which seems to take a lot of the strain off my back (I’ve heard that bar stools are good for this as well).
So there you have my $25 standing workstation! I know that some others have created standing workstations of their own, most notably our friend Dave Munger, who created a standing workstation using a bookshelf and his iPad. If you’ve created one I’d love to hear about it in the comments – especially if you’ve come across any ways to further reduce the cost of setting up the workstation.