I Tried a Standing Desk for a Day & Here's What Happened

I Tried a Standing Desk for a Day & Here's What Happened

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Jennifer Hunter
Feb 3, 2015

Everyone knows that sitting is killing us, so for the past few months, Apartment Therapy staffers have watched with interest as Senior Account Executive and office trailblazer Caroline experimented with a standing desk. Being the health conscious furniture-conscious girl that I am, I decided to follow suit and tackle a one day standing desk experiment. You know, for science. Wanna come along?

Because of my short time frame, I went with a quick-and-dirty DIY version. More specifically THE standing desk DIY (it's been everywhere the past few years) which is made out of components from IKEA and rings up at a very reasonable $22. This is a pretty bare-bones version, as standing desks go. It's not adjustable and it's pretty clunky, but it really does get the job done for a very reasonable price. You just need a LACK side table, a VIKTOR shelf and a few EKBY VALTER brackets. Lucky for me, Caroline had already made this as a trial before she moved on to a pricier desk with more features, so I got mine as a hand-me-down— which worked out just fine. But if you're gonna DIY it, here's a great breakdown of the steps to make this desk.

Here are the raw materials:
(Image credit: IKEA)
Here's my assembled desk (complete with books to adjust the keyboard height):
(Image credit: Jennifer Hunter)

So how did my day go?

9:25 — I arrive at the office (already tough on a snowy Monday morning) and spy the standing desk, all set up (I knew I'd never go through with it unless I set it up on Friday afternoon). Looks vaguely like a medieval torture device but if IKEA manufactured it!

10:02 — I've changed out of my snow boots into to my "office flats." They're not exactly orthopedics but they'll do. I realize that the ledge where I've placed my keyboard and mouse is too low for my 5'9'' self so I make do by stacking some books underneath them until I'm able to type with my shoulders comfortably lowered, my elbows bent and my wrists straight(ish).

10: 10 — I google "how to use a standing desk," and read some very interesting articles that suggest easing into my new standing lifestyle slowly or risk leg and back pain. Also, supportive shoes. Oops.

10:39 — In a sea of sitters, I feel weirdly tall and on display, like the mole you aim for in whack-a-mole. I do my best ballet posture and hope my co-workers think I look more like a young Margot Fonteyn and less like a gnarled, slouchy troll.

11:20 — One drawback (asset?) to standing is that when my co-worker posts a super-catchy song, I'm already in prime dancing posture (and very visible, see above).

12:12 — I'm already feeling the burn in my thighs and, weirdly, the tops of my feet. I'm acutely aware of core muscles that I haven't thought about in quite a while.

12:48 — A huge blizzard is headed to NYC and while everyone else in my office is bundled up, I kept having to shed layers because I'm too warm. Is this the most exercise I've had in weeks? Maybe.

1:15 — I break for lunch and, thankfully, sit for 20 minutes. Looking forward to lunch for a reason other than getting to eat food is a new sensation. I like that I have to go somewhere else to sit down, actually focus on eating and take a real break, rather than sitting at my desk as I usually do.

1:43 — Back at it. For some reason, my ears keep clogging up. Altitude or sinus infection?

2:30 — Go into the conference room for a staff meeting. It feels so good to sit down that I almost (almost) wish the meeting was longer.

3:45 — It's snowing pretty heavily. I'm imagining all transportation shutting down and being forced to walk 40 blocks home after a full day of standing. No thanks. I'm tired. My legs ache and I keep shifting my weight back and forth to give each individual leg a break. I can see now why easing into this lifestyle is a great idea.

4:39 — From my standing vantage point, I can see the snow getting deeper and deeper on the roof of the church across the way. Looks like it's time to head home early, you know, for safety's sake. I'll have to finish up work today from my luxuriously supportive desk chair chez moi (note: my desk chair at home is neither luxurious nor particularly supportive, but boy does it feel good to sit down).

Here's where the magic happens
(Image credit: Jennifer Hunter)

Bottom line: if you want to know what terrible shape you're in, try standing all day. I'll admit that I stupidly didn't even consider that it would be physically hard to work standing up, but it was. It SO was. But I can see that over time it would get easier (or if I had eased in as per standing desk protocol).

If I was going to try standing for more than a day, I'd need to figure out a workable way to sit and stand on and off. If I was on a laptop, it would be a snap to periodically sit down and this DIY desk would work just fine. Since I'm a desktop user at the office, I'd need to find a way to solve this problem. Commercial standing desks have features to raise and lower your workstation so if I was going to commit to a long-term standing lifestyle it would be well worth it to invest in one of those

I do, however, feel like I got a workout. I'm nicely sore (as in, my body hates me in a good way) so it looks like a relaxing epsom salt bath is in order. Earned it!

Any other standing desk renegades out there? Speak up!

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