Humans were never meant to sit around all day. Our structure is made for walking. When I injured my right knee a couple of summers ago, I emerged from the ordeal with a perpetually stiff knee that makes creepy creaking noises when I go down stairs. The bum knee has also changed my body mechanics and several months ago I began having problems with my left foot. After spending many weeks and several hundred bucks in physical therapy we came to one conclusion: I needed to get off my ass and back onto my feet.
Like many photographers, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. Add to the hours of image processing the work I do as a photography educator, and I face at least 16 hours each week parked in front of my iMac. When I saddled up in my desk chair and put in time supine at my desk, I found myself rising with creaks and groans. Creaks and groans have no place in the life of a 40-something guy so I chose to do something about it.
There is a lot of chatter out there about standing desks and the benefits they bring, so I don’t need to rehash them here. Suffice to say the evidence is strong that by simply standing when working at the computer, I’d go a long way toward improving my health. Hell, even Apple knows this and my Apple Watch buzzes on my wrist if I sit still too long. Like global climate change, the science on standing is clear and sensible. Also like climate change, there are plenty of detractors out there calling stand-up desks a fad that will fade quickly as people succumb to gravity and sink back into their chairs. Most of the people saying this stuff are sitting in chairs.
So, armed with some good evidence and tired of my aching foot and creaky knee, I designed my new desk. I could have visited Ikea and picked up a standing desk there, but I have reached a point in my life when I really enjoy doing things well once, not half-assed twice. I found a stunning butcher-block top at a local woodworking shop. It’s 1.5 inches thick and 60 inches long. At 25 inches deep, it’s not expansive, but neither is my office space. The top is constructed of plantation-raised Eucalyptus and it’s stunning. It’s designed to be a kitchen countertop so it’s hard as nails and finished in a very durable and robust coating that will certainly hold up to my desktop antics.
With the top in hand, I designed the rest of the desk to overlap my existing cabinet that hold my laser printer and assorted cases and boxes of junk. Because I usually have a little kid rummaging around under my desk as I work, I designed a box to contain all of the cords and power strips for my technology, some from grabby hands. I found some amazing aluminum pipe fittings online and once they arrived I went down to my local pipe and tubing shop and wrangled the aluminum pipe I would need to erect the legs. I spent about an hour sanding the aluminum pipe to match the textured look of my iMac and G-Tech hard drives, and the European Beech cable-containment box took me another hour to build and finish. Another 30 minutes of assembly and I had a very sturdy and cool-looking desk. It’s not cheap, but the final cost came in well under what a comparable store-bought (but not Ikea) desk.
After a couple of weeks I can say that I’ve noticed a real difference. My work sessions seem more energetic and I feel good when I’m done. My foot and knee still ache, but not like before. I expect in time this adjustment in my daily routine will help mitigate some of my aches and pains. I am also burning a lot more calories when standing, so by simply typing this blog post I have worked off lunch, (not quite, but a little).
Would I suggest a standing desk? Sure. Do I miss my cushy desk chair? Sure. It’s easy to slouch. Standing takes some work.
But then again, most things worth doing do.