zenhabits : breathe

My Standing Desk Experiment

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Corbett Barr of CorbettBarr.com and ThinkTraffic.net.

For the past three weeks I’ve been standing while I work, instead of my usual sitting. I have some interesting results to share with you in a moment, but first let me tell you why I’ve been doing all this standing.

It all started after a couple of tweets came across my radar in the same day about the negative health effects of sitting. It turns out that sitting all day every day for work might not be good for your health and wellness. Who would have thought?

The studies and experiments I found really caught my attention, partly because I’ve been sitting through 40- to 60-hour work weeks every week for the better part of 15 years. Now that I’m in my mid-30s, I’m starting to really consider my current health and habits and trying to do a better job of giving myself the best shot at living a long and active life.

Here’s the evidence about what sitting can do to you:


It turns out that some of these studies of how sitting down can negatively affect your health have been around for a while. I seem to remember hearing about them a couple of years ago, but brushed it all off, thinking that my modest exercise regimen was counteracting all the sitting.

These studies seem to show the opposite. No matter if you exercise, sitting too much is dangerous to your health.

Of course, there are two sides to every story. Too much sitting may kill you, but what about too much standing?

A review of 43 studies by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found only a weak correlation between sitting and mortality.

In a Time Magazine report, a researcher on Ergonomics from Cornell noted that “Standing to work has long known to be problematic, it is more tiring, it dramatically increases the risks of carotid atherosclerosis (ninefold) because of the additional load on the circulatory system, and it also increases the risks of varicose veins, so standing all day is unhealthy.”

OK, so it may be a little more complicated than just sitting vs. standing. As always, personally I’m going to assume that too much of either is probably a bad thing.

Given that I was sitting through 100% of my work day, and probably 85% of my total day, after reading all these studies I decided to try doing a lot more standing.

About three weeks ago I rustled up some boxes from around the house, put the boxes on my desk, perched my laptop on top of the boxes and pushed my chair out of the way. I’ve since been standing up for the majority of my work day for the past few weeks.

There are also purpose-built desks you can buy to set up a standing (or even treadmill arrangement), but I’m happy now with my boxes at a height where my arms bend at about 90 degrees while typing.

At first the standing was rather uncomfortable. During the first few days I could only get through a couple of hours at a time before taking a sitting break. Now I can stand most of the day if I decide to, with little breaks to walk around every hour or two.

There’s no question, standing takes more energy and tends to make you sore compared to sitting. For a little foot cushion I’ve folded up a yoga mat and have been standing on that, which is more comfortable for me than just standing on the hard wood floors.

So far, my standing desk experiment has had several positive outcomes, with just a few slight negatives. Here are my results:

In all, I’m really happy to have made the change and recommend that people try standing at least a little bit throughout the day. The increased energy and focus is worth the effort, even if the long-term health benefits don’t turn out to be so major.

If you give standing a try, remember that you’ll need to ease into it for about a week before standing becomes more comfortable. Reach out on Twitter and tell me (@CorbettBarr) or Leo (@zen_habits) about your results.

Read more about sitting (and standing) and the associated health implications:

Corbett Barr writes about lifestyle businesses at CorbettBarr.com and about how to get more visitors for your website or blog at Think Traffic. Follow him on Twitter.



Join a million+ breath-taking readers: rss | email | twitter | +