Writing full-time keeps me sitting at a desk nearly eight hours a day. My office chair is not one of those Lexus ergonomic models designed to take away the pain of sitting, and though I’ve tried using “take a break” apps like Time Out, I often sit way too long for my health.
So after reading articles and studies about standing while typing, I decided to try it for myself. This article is about my experiment with changing a habit we take for granted.
A few published studies conclude that, “Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.” While the fear of death did not make me get out of my chair more often, back fatigue and lack of energy certainly did.
I find that throughout the day when I sit in my chair too long, I become increasingly sluggish, hitting a high point of brain drain by around three in the afternoon, sometimes sooner. And on days when I ignore the “take a Break” reminders, I become completely burned out with hardly any energy left in the evening.
I try sitting straight up on the edge of my chair, taking a stretch every thirty minutes, and sometimes getting around to actually taking a break. But I have discovered that none of these activities are as helpful as standing while typing.
Going From Sitting To Standing
After using a makeshift standing “desk” (left photo below), I slowly eased myself into standing at my little MacBook Air workstation while facing a large window to my backyard. While I never intended to use my Macbook Air in this manner (because the small screen doesn’t provide the power of my MacPro setup), with three monitors, I found that typing while standing can often be an energy boost to my work.
I wrote the first draft of this article using my Macbook Air on top of a WorkEZ stand (above right photo). After conducting several web searches , I couldn’t find an affordable standing desk that fitted my needs. I settled on the WorkEZ because it is affordable and more ergonomic than the makeshift plastic shelf setup (I do have some issues with the WorkEZ Executive Stand which you can read in my Amazon review to find out more).
For the first days of standing while typing, I mainly did it in short spurts – checking my my RSS feeds, browsing the net, and answering a few emails. At first I found long periods of standing uncomfortable. I thought how could this be better if I’m constantly moving my feet, and switching my weight from one leg to another?
But after the third day I realized that moving my feet, and stepping away from the laptop was exactly the point of standing while typing. I’m not sure how many calories I’m burning while working in this position (my wife who is a doctor claims the body does burn calories while standing), but I do know I’m stretching my body more and am taking breaks a lot better than when I sit at my computer for long stretches of time.
I have even found that drinking glasses of water while I am standing and typing is also an energy boost. Standing and typing causes me to be more focused and not spend as much time browsing the net as I normally would. It’s a lot easier to take a break because I’m already standing.
Tips On Standing
As I worked on researching and writing this article, Saikat, one of the editors here at MUO reminded me about affordable desks at IKEA. I hadn’t visited IKEA in over ten years, but I took a trip to the store with my daughter, and she helped me put together a really nice standing desk setup, costing a little over $100, that not only looks better than the original desk, but I am now able to use my MacPro and three monitors.
One of the important things I’ve learned so far about posture and standing while typing is that it is indeed better to type with your hands near waist level. With my makeshift setup, I typed using the laptop keyboard. On the IKEA desk setup, I use a Logitech solar keyboard that sits on a WorkEZ stand, which partially leans down and makes it easier on my wrist as I type.
I also found that having the computer elevated at eye level as much as possible is very important. You get a lot of neck strain when you have to look down at the keyboard and screen. In fact, with the IKEA desk I plan to purchase a riser that is a few inches higher than the one I use now.
The WorkEZ setup turned out not to be tall enough for me. So when you research a standing desk setup, try to have a good idea about the height you need for standing and your workflow.
I also found that using a text editor called Byword is better for typing because it features Typewriter Mode, in which the text scrolls up while typing. This prevents you from having to look at the bottom of the screen as you type. I wish the Typewriter Mode feature was a part of every text editor I use.
Finally, you may be wondering if I now stand all day at my workstation. Nope, not a chance. Unless you’re very athletic or work out at the gym, I don’t suggest trying to stand all day. I alternate between standing and sitting at a barstool. I find when I’m experiencing a computer related problem, I definitely need to sit because I’m at my stress point. But I mostly stand when I type articles as I’m doing now. I move away from my desk a lot more, such as when I am waiting for an application to launch, or just pull back, take a stretch, and think about what I’m going to type next. It’s especially cool to fire up some dancing music as I stand typing, which increases the blood flow.
If you stand on a hardwood floor, you might also invest in some sort of mat that can be more comfortable on your feet. I stood barefoot on a carpet, and after a few weeks I didn’t feel as much pain as I did in those first few days.
Making the transition from sitting to standing is not easy, but as the research says, I have found that our bodies are not made for sitting all day. We should be moving around, and I have certainly found that to be the case.
Do you stand while typing? What has the experience been like for you? If you have a photo of your standing desk, feel free to share a link.