Sunday, February 6, 2011

Is working standing up too expensive? It could cost you as little as $10

Spending too much time sitting down is clearly unnatural, particularly if you sit down on very comfortable chairs. Sitting down per se is probably natural, given the human anatomy, but not sitting down for hours in the same position. Also, comfortable furniture is an apparently benign Neolithic invention, but over several years it may stealthily contributed to the metabolic syndrome and the diseases of civilization.

Getting an elevated workstation may be a bit expensive. At work, you may have to go through a bit of a battle with your employer to get it (unless you are "teh boz"), only to find out that having to work standing up all the time is not what you really wanted. That may not be very natural either. So what is one to do? One possible solution is to buy a small foldable plastic table (or chair) like the one on the figure below, which may cost you less than $10, and put it on your work desk. I have been doing this for quite a while now, and it works fine for me.

The photo above shows a laptop computer. Nevertheless, you can use this table-over-table approach with a desktop computer as well. And you still keep the space under the foldable table, which you can use to place other items. With a desktop computer this approach would probably require two foldable tables to elevate the screen, keyboard, and mouse. This approach also works for reading documents and writing with a pen or pencil; just put a thick sheet of paper on the foldable table to make a flat surface (if the foldable table’s surface is not flat already). And you don’t have to be standing up all the time; you can sit down as well after removing the foldable table. It takes me about 5 seconds to do or undo this setup.

When you sit down, you may want to consider using a pillow like the one on the photo to force yourself to sit upright. (You can use it as shown, or place the pillow flat on the chair and sit on its edge.) Sitting on a very comfy chair with back support prevents you from using the various abdominal and back muscles needed to maintain posture. As a result, you may find yourself unusually prone to low back injuries and suffering from “mysterious” abdominal discomfort. You will also very likely decrease your nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is a major calorie expenditure regulator.

With posture stabilization muscles, as with almost everything else in the human body, the reality is this: if you don’t use them, you lose them.


BigWhiskey said...

"mysterious abdominal discomforts"?? Such as....?

LeonRover said...

I have often knelt in front of a keyboard, particularly when a chair or space is at at a premium.

Sometimes I deliberately do it for an hour at a time. Naturally, a cushion helps.

Mind you, if I do this to demonstrate to someone else when in a hurry, I get funny looks - but hey, I've been an innovator in this business since using a card reader to do invoice sampling!

Ned Kock said...

Hi BigWhiskey; see below:

AD is a frequently source of wrong diagnoses.

Ned Kock said...

Hi Leon. Doesn’t that hurt your knees? Even with a cushion, kneeling for that long seems problematic to me.

Brandon Thomson said...

Here is a picture of an old bookcase I converted to use as a standing desk at home:
(sorry, won't let me embed)

Pair with a $20 36" barstool from IKEA and you can sit as well (not comfortably, which is good)

LeonRover said...

Hey Ned, you're right.

I have not tried it for more than 15 mins without a cushion, and about an hour with one.

Nonetheless, I offer the idea as an hormetic routine, that anyone could conceive of using as a break - rather than walking round the desk or room when intensely focused.

BTW, thanks for yr support over at Chris MJ's.

Ned Kock said...

I like that setup Brandon!

Ned Kock said...

You’re welcome Leon. I don’t remember what it was, but I guess you were making a good point. That’s not to say that Chris M. doesn’t deserve kudos for the great stuff he’s been putting out. He deserves major kudos.

Darren said...

My setup is very similar to yours except I've been using a cardboard box. It has taken some getting used to. Currently, I stand, on and off, for about half of the working day and at other times I remove the box and sit normally.

I started experimenting with working in the, so called, third-world squat position with my laptop on the floor. The position is uncomfortable to most Westerners, but I'm optimistic that, with some adjustment, I'll be able to work it into my daily rotation eventually. Fortunately, I'm used to getting strange looks from my co-workers.

Ravi said...

Ned! even the department of health support your idea... ;-),19000/

thanks for the reminder that i don't have to be on my ass while computing...

Jack Goldmaker said...

I have found that one test for sitting too long on a computer is to talk out loud and listen to the tone of one's voice. My voice seems to go up an octave as if I am much weaker, so I am obviously burning calories to sit in my task chair. As a rule I now drink a big pitcher of water as nothing can stop the bladder when it comes to getting up from a computer.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ned, Just now decided to give your blog a read after first learning of you in the comments of a post on another blog (think it was freetheanimal). Enjoying it immensely!

Anyway, just a bit of an an@l point. You wrote:

" may stealthily contributed to the..."

Syntax error?


Placid Way said...

Abdominal problems has been increasingly ranking higher amongst every gender and age, Doctors in Turkey reason are very clear to sit for hours to watch television play video games, in result which gets fat.

viagra online said...

What a strange idea, i wonder if it really works in order to fix my back