A man stood up, using a high desk space to work on his laptop

Standing Desks: Why Use Them and How to Get Creative Building Your Own

Prolonged Sitting is Bad for Our Health

According to a 2016 Lancet study shared by the Federation of Self Employed & Small Businesses, spending eight hours a day sat at a desk increases the chance of early death from diseases such as cancer and heart disease by around 60%.

Before you start to panic, there is a partial solution and it starts with 21 minutes.

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) recommends that we all aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week, that’s roughly 21 minutes per day. So, whether that’s walking the dog, cycling with the kids to school or Kate Bush dancing around your kitchen, it all counts.

If you can manage a couple of days of strength activity too, you’re flying! Strength activities can include, yoga, lifting weights, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting and carrying children.

Top Tips to Help You Sit Less During the Working Day

  • Build your awareness – I always start by advising people to empower themselves with knowledge. Most people are aware that they should sit less and move more for a happier and healthier lifestyle, but do we really know why? Using a sitting calculator for example, is a great way of truly discovering how long you sit for. This in itself can become a great motivator for making positive changes to your daily routine.
  • Vary your working positions throughout the day – If you’re able to, taking the opportunity to work standing-up at regular intervals throughout the day is a great place to start. Standing more, quite simply breaks-up your time spent sat down but has also been shown to burn slightly more calories. However, standing all day is equally not great for you, so make sure you vary your working positions between sitting, standing and walking.
  • Use prompts – We all need a little reminder some time, right? Whether it’s wearables such as smart watches, calendar reminders or post-it notes above your computer screen, they can all help. Making a plan and setting realistic goals have been greatly attributed to helping people form news habits and therefore change their behaviour. Why not set a reminder to take yourself for a little walk around every 30 mins.
  • Drink more water – This suggestion is one of my favourites because its good for you on so many levels. Not only is drinking water great for your body and for your brain, it’s also a brilliantly natural way of encouraging your body to move more.

Consider Using a Standing Desk

Aim to break-up your sitting time for at least one to two minutes every 30 minutes. One of the easiest ways to encourage siting less and standing / moving more, is with a standing desk.

Standing desks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Want to try working whilst standing for parts of the day but don’t want to invest in a new set-up just yet? No worries, it’s time to get creative.

Getting Creative with your Desk Set-Up

Standing desks do not have to cost the earth. In fact, why not get creative with items that you already have in your home. Here are some real examples that I have encountered along the way:

  • The ironing board – An ironing board is something we use to get creases out of our clothes, but can it do more? Pop-up your ironing board where you want it, add a couple of books on top to get the right height and away you go.
  • The big book stack – The big book stack is the easiest example of how you can explore a sit-standing working arrangement, in any environment. Find a nice level surface, add a good pile of large books and sit your laptop nicely on top.
  • Sit / Stand Desk Converter – This is the set-up that I personally use at home. The desk converter is a rising platform that sits on top of your current desk. With the pull of a lever, the platform rises into a higher and locked position, perfectly designed for working whilst standing.

For Added Comfort

Top tip: When working stood-up for periods throughout the day, I find it far more comfortable on my knees and lower back to stand on a mat, or some form of cushioning. I specifically use an anti-fatigue mat, but I have also seen people use thick yoga mats as an alternative.

Whatever you chose to stand on, please make sure that it has a non-slip base and does not present you with a trip hazard.

Discover More

For further tips of how to sit less and move more during the working day, check out our video ‘How to get more movement into your working day’.

We also provide a range of other information relating to being active in the workplace. Head over to our Active Workplaces page to find out more. You can also contact Aaron Harverson. Aaron leads on Active Workplaces at Active Devon and you can email him using our contact form