I have back problems. I’ve had them for a good number of years, due in part by some rough and tumble years in my teens and twenties when I thought I was invincible. Now that I’m older, I find that my back goes out a few times of year which brings my life to a crashing halt for a few days to a week. Until this past year, when recovery time took multiple trips to the doctor, three weeks of physical therapy and treatments and a strong suggestion that I stop sitting so much during the day.
Stop sitting so much? Unlike my younger years, my job now consists of sitting in an office crunching numbers and reconciling differences. I’m a financial analyst. That’s what we do. Our eyes sight tends to go from staring at computer screens and spreadsheets all day and we sit. When I’m not working at the office, I’m writing. I write about four hours a day on average. This, too, is usually done sitting. I didn’t know there were other options, until….
My doctor suggested a standing desk. It would keep my spine from decompressing with the ten hours a day I spend sitting and getting me up and moving. I was naturally a little skeptical. How could standing all day help my already aching back and decrease my pain level? Still, anything to reduce the amount of back troubles I was having was worth investigating. So I approached my supervisors at work and it turned out it wasn’t such a crazy request after all. It took about three weeks for the new desk to arrive and about an hour for them to install it, but on January 4th I found myself the proud owner (leasor?) of a standing desk.
Day one was….difficult. Granted it wasn’t installed until almost 11am, so almost half my day was done. I had about an hour of rearranging all my computer and office supplies around the new set up, then it was time to break for lunch. Which I took… sitting and writing, as per habit. After lunch I buckled down to work and in those last four hours I learned several things.
After years of sitting for 10 + hours a day, standing for four seems like an eternity. Luckily I had cushy shoes on that day, as I was expecting the desk to come in, but it wasn’t enough. I talked with another co-worker who had one and got a few tips from her. The first thing was to purchase an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. This very cushy rubber mat has been a life-saver. The second? Move. Move a lot. I walk in place. I move side to side. I find that instead of using the phone, I now just walk over to the area I have a question for. Why? I’m already up.
The first week was the toughest. I took little breaks and sat in the chair at the back of my office. I sat at lunch to work on book 2. By week 2 I noticed something. My back wasn’t hurting as much. Granted my calves and legs were on fire, but my back felt… better. If you’ve ever had severe back pain, you will agree that a trade for a little pain in the legs is totally worth it. I know I will continue to get stronger.
It’s affected my life in other ways as well. I stopped eating at McDonald’s for breakfast, even though it was convenient and “right on my way into work”. Two days a week, I now take a walk during lunch with co-workers instead of sitting and writing. When I’m at home I sometimes stand up at the table and I try to move around a little more in the evenings. (Granted that first week, I came home and fell asleep within about an hour of getting there!)
While my desk at work is static (it doesn’t go up and down), there are desks you can buy that will. The photo on the left is one that a person built with extra wood they had from other projects. It’s simple and effective.
I live in a rather small townhouse now, which doesn’t have room for another piece of furniture, but in looking for pictures to use for this blog post, I found items I can place on my kitchen table to turn it into a temporary standing desk when I’m writing at night. (Guess what’s on my birthday wish list?)
I wanted to share this with you all after I’d been using it for two weeks. It’s been about 14 days now and I’m feeling the difference. I feel better. Not just at work, but at home as well. I find I’m less likely to put things off and I’m being more productive in both places. Not only that, but I’ve lost over four pounds in the last two weeks, even with several club events in which I probably over-indulged, compared to a normal week.
If you have a standing desk or would like to tell me about your experiences, I’ve love to hear them. If you have any tips or tricks for others that may be trying to sit less during the day, put them in the comments below. We could all stand to move a little more in our day!