Chances are if you are reading this post, you are sitting down. And if you are like most Americans (we writers are some of the worst) you’ll probably spend at least 12 hours of your waking day sitting on your rump. Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep every night, that leaves only 4 hours of daylight that you are upright each day. In fact, the average person will spend nearly 70% of their lifetime sitting. (Depressing thought, right?)
Why is this a big deal?
If you haven’t yet heard, this past year there has been an explosion of new data from countless health studies and articles that claim sitting for long periods of time is apparently one of the most harmful things we can do to our bodies. Go ahead, Google a few of them and you’ll quickly find that every single hour you sit (after the age of 25) reduces your life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. That may not seem like a lot at first until you do the math. 12 hours a day sitting (at work, at the dinner table, in the car, on the couch, at church, etc) adds up to a whopping 4.36 hours of life expectancy wasted each day. Consider that a single cigarette will carve 11 min off your life expectancy and you can see why sitting is a silent killer that few of us think about. Is sitting the new smoking?
Even more surprising is that the results hold true for those of us who exercise regularly as well. People who sit at work all day and then manage to sneak in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise everyday hardly make a dent in the amount of hours they spend sitting.
I’m not going to go into all the medical reasons why this happens. There are plenty of articles out there have already done this well. I’m not typically one to read too much into the latest health trends, and I certainly wasn’t in any mood to change my work habits based on a stupid article or two, or three…or twelve. But this information did get me thinking: Are writers doomed to live shorter, less healthy lives than the McDonalds floor-moppers? If not, what’s the alternative?
One solution could be a standing desk. That’s right, it seems the hip thing for desk jockeys to do these days is to purchase a standing desk and work diligently while standing. It’s okay – you can chuckle. I know I did when I first read about it too, but apparently it’s not as new as you think. It seems some of the most influential men of their times preferred to work standing up – men like Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson (or so the articles claim). I was intrigued by the concept, but it wasn’t until a friend of mine decided to take the challenge and purchased a standing desk of his own that I got to hear first hand how it was working.
After his initial discomfort from adjusting his lifestyle from one of sitting daily to standing upright regularly he discovered something interesting. He was more alert and focused at work and felt more productive. One by one, his co-workers began switching over to the standing desks as well, having seen first hand the difference it made in their colleague’s work personality.
Convinced that I shouldn’t dismiss it until I tried it, I recently decided to give it a try for myself.
Here’s what I found:
I did a quick internet search for standing desk companies and discovered…ACK…those things cost $800 or more. I was shocked. It was enough to put me out of the running for sure. I’m a writer for Pete’s sake, not a millionaire. But a few searches later I discovered an adequate solution to get me on my feet for less than $22 thanks to IKEA and a little ingenuity. $22 was definitely in the budget range I was looking for. You can read more about the $22 IKEA standing desk solution here if you’re interested in trying it out for yourself.
As for me, I’m writing at my standing desk as we speak and while I can say it has taken a bit of getting used to, I’m actually kinda digging it. Only time will tell, but I’m learning that it hasn’t been as big of a change as I first thought it would be.
Standing desks may seem silly to us now, but I bet the idea of sitting for 12 hours a day would likely seem as silly (if not downright sinful) to people a few hundred years ago. So, I’m taking a stand for writers everywhere. I’ll post periodic updates on twitter to let you know how it’s working out for me. In the end, if standing adds a few more years of productive writing to my life I’ll be glad I stood. Who knows, one of those books may even crack the best-seller list.