February 14, 2016

Get Up On Your Feet: Consequences of Sitting and Benefits of a Standing Desk

standing desk

Choose a standing desk and stay healthier longer

As freelance writers, we spend most of our days sitting in a chair, chained to our desk, eyes glued to a computer screen, churning out words and sentences.  For most of us, passion compelled us to start a writing career; we love expressing our thoughts and feelings through the written word.

But what if giving up your freelance writing career guaranteed you a longer life?  Would you still choose to write?  Put it this way: would you continue smoking if it reduced your lifespan by several years?

Well, sitting is the new smoking.

A recent study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that for every hour you sit in front of the television, you reduce your life expectancy by 22 minutes.  Beyond the usual symptoms of stiff muscles and sore backs, sitting for extended periods increases your chances of obesity, heart disease, and muscle atrophy.  It’s a painful truth nobody wants to hear: sitting not only makes you fat, but causes premature death.

Hemingway at standing desk

Hemingway used a standing desk.

So what can you do to counteract the detrimental effects of sitting?  Use a standing desk.  Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway all used standing desks.  They saw the benefits and so can you.

Studies have shown that standing increases blood flow to the legs and may even boost your productivity. Businesses all over the country have begun introducing standing desks to the workplace, even adding treadmills to help employees remain active while they work.  By using a standing desk you’ll improve your health, increase your productivity, and have more energy.

Home made standing desk

Make your own standing desk.

You can purchase a dedicated standing desk from your local office or furniture store or make your own out of a bookshelf, cabinet or counter—even an ironing board would do.  Whatever method you use, adjust the height of your standing desk for optimal comfort.

If you’d rather not buy or build a standing desk, make it a point to get up out of your chair and walk around at least once every hour to stretch your muscles.  Take a walk outside for some fresh air or perform a set of exercises while standing.  Getting up and walking for just a few minutes will help clear your mind and get the creative juices flowing once again.  The key is not to stay seated for too long.

So what is your health worth to you?  You can remain seated or you can rise to the occasion and choose to live a longer healthier life simply by using a standing desk.

About Michael Taulier

Michael is a freelance writer and professional resume editor. He enjoys writing for clients on a wide variety of topics, but specializes in writing for the health care industry. With a classic education and training as an historian, he's got what it takes to add an intangible "certain something" to his work that gives a powerful layer of meaning and effectiveness to the final story. Read more about Michael at The Refined Writer .


  1. Hi Michael! I’ve been thinking about getting one of these for a long time now. Your article just convinced me it’s the way to go. I’m athletic and exercise regularly anyway, but get “antsy” just sitting at my desk. I think this would afford me a little “moving room” for my high-energy body.

    I really love the one Hemingway’s standing at in the picture you included. It looks like it’s really just a tall sofa table or something. What’s more, you could have a barstool nearby just in case you wanted to sit, or if you had a visitor or something like that.
    Samantha Gluck recently posted..Freelance Writers – Your Mobile Office Just Got Way CoolerMy Profile

    • Hi Samantha,

      I think a standing desk is good for anyone and everyone who spends any length of time at a desk. Plus it can save you money by not having to purchase a fancy office chair!

      • LOL! I never thought about that aspect of it, Michael (saving money on the fancy leather office chair). Alas, I already have a fancy chair, but I can give that to Dragonslayer. ;-)

  2. Years ago I knew someone who was starting a business making standing desks–but he was way ahead of his time. I’ve been reading a lot about “sitting disease” and I’m making huge efforts to counteract it by pacing while on the phone, getting up every 30 minutes, and so on. But I probably need to figure out how to make myself a standing desk.
    Charlotte Rains Dixon recently posted..How to Build a Writing CommunityMy Profile

    • Charlotte,

      Building a standing desk is as easy as buying a plank of wood and placing it on cinder blocks. That’s probably the cheapest method. Remember, a standing desk doesn’t have to fancy; it has to be functional.

      The efforts you’re making now will pay off. Your body will thank you someday!

  3. Interesting. The idea is not at all common in Holland. But there is no need to buy an actual standing desk, any other piece of furniture could do the job. I read about treadmills used actively while working. This would be too much for me. Just standing sounds more appealing :)
    Veronica Lupascu recently posted..How much do translators charge for translating Google AdWords?My Profile

    • Veronica,

      I lived in Europe for several years and we walked practically everywhere even though we had a car. We didn’t think much of it but it was a great form of daily exercise. It’s just part of European culture.

      I think standing desks occupy a more prominent role in the US due to much higher rates of obesity and the fact that we spend most of our lives working. A standing desk can be a great way to stay productive while helping shed those unwanted pounds.

  4. Interesting post. I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable with a standing desk, but I’d be willing to ‘test’ it out. I do my best to get up and walk around. I’ll also do yoga or kickboxing. When I lived in Arizona, I’d hike for about 30 minutes to an hour, in addition to volunteering, which kept me on my toes. Now that I’m living in Northeastern Ohio, I have to be a bit more creative because of the cold weather. And… the hiking terrain is different. :)
    Amandah recently posted..How to Use Twitter Better: 7 Quick and Simple TipsMy Profile

    • Amandah,

      Being active will counteract the effects of too much sitting up to a point. Humans were not meant to sit several hours a day so the standing desk can be of great benefit even to those who are very active.

      The book shelf adjacent to my desk acts as my standing desk. I just place a few books to raise my laptop up to a comfortable position and it works great! Try it out, you might like it!

  5. Please be sure to check out the latest invention by Martin Keen (of Keen shoes fame): an upright desk where your butt is on a seat but your legs are extended and relaxed. Big improvement over just standing there. See http://www.focaluprightfurniture.com – boy do I want this desk/chair combination!!!
    Nellie recently posted..Painted Steps in LebanonMy Profile

  6. If you are having a hard time diving into a fully dedicated standing desk, you can try out a Stand-Up Desk Kit that converts, very elegantly, your desk into a standing work station. Very sturdy and it can even be customized with the finish and leg color. Find it at: standupdeskkit.com/kickstart

    • Hi Pace,

      I just looked at the website linked here. The kit looks really awesome! I’m going to have my husband make a solid wood standing desk for me. It’ll be beautiful and a keepsake at once!

      • The kit looks like it would meet the needs of many people, myself included. If I didn’t already have a makeshift standing desk, I would seriously consider a Stand-Up Desk Kit.

        • Michael,

          Have you ever checked out one of the kits or pre-fab standing desks in person? The Dragonslayer (aka hubs) and I are going to check some out at IKEA this weekend. I’m very particular, though, so am not sure I’ll find what I want there. I want a solid wood desk.

          • I’ve never actually tried a pre-made standing desk myself but I’ve seen people at work use them and they say they’ll never go back to a regular desk.

            I doubt you’ll find a solid wood desk at IKEA. They’re usually made of particle board but the advantage is that they have a wide variety of desks to choose from so you should be able to find what you want. I’m considering building a solid wood standing desk since my regular desk is solid wood and I love the quality.

            • Mark McCarty says:

              I’ve been doing the standing thing for a while now, but I think the real crux of the matter is the chair rather than the desk. A desk can be modified by one of any number of means, but it’s tough to stand for eight straight hours.

              What’s needed is a chair of some sort that keeps you in a near-standing position, but allows you to transfer some of the weight to your behind without imposing an odd angle on your lumbar spine. Figure that one out and the rest is a piece of cake.

              • Hi Mark,

                I’ve been using a standing desk for several months now. I’m very active and athletic, but I’m also (and my friends will tell you) very “energetic” (shall we say). I just cannot sit still for long while keeping focus. I had to do something and the standing desk provided a great solution. Your idea about having some sort of stool or chair for those moments when sitting is necessary is great, though.

                Thanks for stopping by! xo

  7. Laura Burger says:

    I’ve gained 80 pounds since coming from my previous active job on a college campus to my current sendintary one 15 years ago. When I rise from my desk I have to stand for several seconds before taking a step because of my stiff hip joints. Someone just recommended a standing desk and finding this site and these posts has convinced me I need to at least try it. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Hi Laura,

      I’m so glad you discovered this great post by our staff writer, Michael. I find it interesting that Hemingway used a standing desk all his life and look how slim he stayed throughout the years. I doubt he had any regular exercise routines (other than lifting his drink to his mouth ;-)), yet he stayed slim, spry, and sharp all his life.

      Make sure you get a standing desk that’s perfectly adjusted for your height, line of sight, etc. If you need, I can send you a link to a site that explains all of that for you. Let me know.


      • Laura,

        I’m glad the post helped make the decision to try out a standing desk. I think you’ll really like it once you get used to it. Like Samantha said, adjust it properly for your height and line of sight and then come back to let us know how it’s working for you!

  8. Interesting. I feel that using “sitting as the new smoking” is a bit too extreme

    • Hi Karim,

      I think you’re probably right that sitting isn’t as bad as smoking for most of us. But for some, it probably has detrimental health effects that are just as dangerous, although different. I use a standing desk and while it was challenging to adjust at first, after about a week and a half, I was used to it. Now I find it hard to work while I sit. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  9. I’ve had a make-shift standing desk for about a year now (my test-period), and have been searching for a good standing desk/work station. The first picture shown is exactly what I’m looking for, do you know where I can find it to purchase?


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