Should I sit or should I stand?
That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. I know sitting all day is not good for my body, but I didn’t want to stand all day either.
I didn’t want to purchase a desk that can be raised and lowered for both sitting and standing positions. I like my desk, and those types of desks are often expensive.
I saw lifts that can be placed on an existing desk so that a monitor and keyboard could be lifted to stand level, but I thought some looked big and clunky. The ones I liked cost more than I wanted to spend but had an easy lift system along with a keyboard tray.
Instead of finding a sit-stand solution, I decided I’d make it a practice to get up from my desk and stretch throughout the day. I got an extension for my browser that shut down my computer once an hour for 5 minutes to force myself to get up and stretch. I continually put it on pause. I hate being interrupted. I quickly returned to my sit all day routine, but I could feel the toll it was taking on my body. I knew I had to make a change.
What happens to the body that sits all day?
Bad things happen to the body. Not just bad things, scary things:
- Organ damage. When we sit all day, our muscles burn less fat, and our blood flows at a slower pace. This may lead to fat clogging the heart. According to the Washingpost, “The health hazards of sitting,” sitting for hours a day is linked to high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Health risks increase when we’re sedentary. Our pancreas produces insulin at levels needed for an active body whether we’re active or not. When we’re sedentary, and our muscle cells have a reduced need for insulin, they become resistant to it. This causes our pancreas to create more insulin which ultimately wears out the pancreas and causes diabetes. But there are other dangers associated with excess insulin. It can lead to colon, breast and endometrial cancers.
- Reduced Lung Function. Sitting all day and leaning or hunching forward can reduce your lung capacity. According to studies by Dr. Rene Cailliet, former director of University of Southern California’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, lung capacity can be reduced by as much as 30 percent. This has a chain-reaction effect throughout our bodies. With reduced lung capacity our blood is less oxygenated which can contribute to heart and vascular disease, shortness of breath, and clouded thinking.
- Muscle loss and pain. Muscles that are not used will atrophy and weaken. Sitting all day, every day weakens the muscles that are engaged in holding bodies upright. Hip flexors shorten as we sit for extended periods of time. Poor posture leads to back pain and tension. The discs in our spines can become compressed and degeneration will occur. Many experience pain and tension in their neck and shoulders when sitting at a desk all day.
- Poor circulation and nerve compression. Sitting slows blood circulation which can lead to swollen ankles, varicose veins and even deep vein thrombosis which can be deadly. When we sit and lean our arms on our desk, we can compress the ulnar nerve that runs from the elbow to the hand. This is something I tend to do.
My low-cost, flexible solution for a sit-stand desk
After searching for an option that would allow me to stand and work at my desk, I finally found the right one. It was so simple. I wondered why I didn’t think of it before or why I hadn’t seen this solution earlier in all of my research.
I got an adjustable mount for my monitor, a keyboard stand, and a mat so I can stand comfortably on my hardwood floors.
What it cost:
I got the anti-fatigue mat after using my standing set up for two weeks because I have hardwood floors and I highly recommend it even if you have carpeting.
Installing the monitor pole didn’t look like it would be difficult, even though I am not the handy type.
I selected a well-reviewed articulating single monitor desk mount from Amazon. Before I made my selection, I made a few measurements to be certain my monitor could be raised to the proper height. I found an ergonomics calculator at a site that sells the expensive desks I didn’t want. By inputting my height in one field, I could determine the proper height of my monitor and keyboard.
This is what it the monitor mount looked like unassembled-
I took my monitor off its stand and installed the panel that would ultimately attach to the arm of the monitor mount. That was easy, although initially, I put it on upside down and didn’t realize that until I was trying to attach it.
After that, I cleared off my desk and pulled out the power supplies for the monitor and the two laptops I use.
I attached the bottom portion of the pole to the desk
That was easy too. I slipped a piece of cardboard under the clamp to protect the finish on my desk.
Then I attached the arm to the pole and strung the cable along the length of it allowing enough cable length so the monitor could easily be lifted. I used a 10-foot HMDI cable. Then I attached the monitor to the arm and secured it.
After this step, I had some trouble. As you can see in the picture below, the monitor was facing the desk. Was it too heavy? No. I had trouble getting the connecting bolt sufficiently tight with the Allen wrench. But I fixed that using a little leverage. I put the Allen wrench in the socket and turned it with a pair of pliers. That still took some effort, but it did the trick.
After getting the bolt good and tight, the monitor was secured to the arm, and it was facing me instead of the desk.
I immediately saw the space it cleared on my desk and was very pleased.
Here’s my stand desk set-up. I love it. With this monitor mount, when I’m sitting, I can get it a bit higher and make it more comfortable than the monitor riser I use for my other monitor. When I stand, I simply lift the monitor, and it secures itself on the pole without any additional adjustments like magic.
The keyboard stand is just the right height for me. The one I purchased is either no longer available or out of stock; I can’t imagine it would be difficult to make this kind of stand yourself if you’re handy or to find one online.
How should you use your stand desk?
- Don’t stand all day. Standing all day will quickly lead to body pain. Ease into your use of the standing configuration by standing for a total of two hours a day and gradually increase standing to no more than four hours a day. You don’t have to stand for longer than what is comfortable for you. Listen to your body. There’s no reason why you can’t stand for 10 or 15 minutes at time. Do what works for you.
- Move. You can use a balance board to engage your core muscles and tone your legs. There are a variety of options. I think it might be distracting, but I haven’t tried one yet. Some are designed for exercise, while others are designed specifically for stand desks. I typically move back and forth while I work standing up. I’ll stretch my arms and my calves when I can, but I’m usually typing and not standing before the monitor reading. For those times when I am reading, I may pick up some hand weights; they work like magic to get rid of any numbness I’ve developed in my wrists or lower arms.
- Maintain good posture. Good posture is essential all the time. Sitting, standing, walking. We need to respect our bodies’ design. Failing to do so causes health problems and muscle tension.
- Ergonomics matter. You should be looking forward to the monitor, not down. Also, adjust the angle for comfort. I like to tilt it up a tiny bit.
I have two laptop computers underneath the monitor riser to the left of my main monitor. I use the two computers with one keyboard and mouse. A program called Synergy allows me to share the keyboard and mouse with more than one computer.
Over the years, I’ve tried using two monitors with one computer through an extended desktop, but it never worked smoothly. When I happened to end up having multiple laptops and monitors, I decided I’d use them both. I typically use my secondary computer for research and write on my main monitor. With this set-up, I’m able to avoid switching among multiple tabs or using half a screen. There are no issues with overloaded memories when I want to watch a Ted Talk or Netflix as I work.
I use Chrome browser with synced bookmarks so whatever I bookmark on one computer appears on my other computers. For files that I tend to use on more than one computer, I use Dropbox.
I feel better than ever working at my new sit/stand desk. I love the additional space I have on my desk and that my monitor is always at the correct height. I recommend this solution for anyone who works at a desk all day.