How To Live Longer: Adventures In Stand Up Desking


Occasionally, I like to change it up on this blog and talk about something that will help you that isn’t necessarily marketing-related. Of all the non-marketing posts I’ve written, this is probably the most important for your health.

I remember a few years ago speaking to my friend Ben, an excellent marketer with a successful business. I won’t mention his full name as I don’t want to embarrass him with the next bit…

He mentioned that he was getting a fairly severe case of what he dubbed:

Marketer’s Belly‘ – A swelling of the lower abdomen caused by sitting at your computer all day, eating crap and not exercising enough.

I laughed at the time, but something of what he said stuck with me and I started to look at ways I could improve my activity levels during the day.

Naturally, I exercise three times per week and I walk pretty much everywhere (I can’t remember the last time I took the Tube to go anywhere). But that wasn’t enough. I noticed my own case of Marketer’s Belly developing nicely, which lead me to this…

Over the past 4½ months, I’ve been experimenting with a stand-up desk, working most of the day in a standing position.

Sitting down for long periods of time is pretty unhealthy for a body (yours and mine) that was designed by nature to be active.

I’ll explain how I built the desk in a moment, but first, let me show you the stats that really made me take action:

Sitting is Killing You

Pretty scary stuff, right?

I did some more research of my own and found a lot of medical proof that sitting down isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Then I thought: ‘What’s the point in building a successful online business if you end up too fat/sick/dead to enjoy it?

So, I took some action and found a guy called Colin who’d already built a desk for himself for just a few dollars.

Having seen how easy it was, my girlfriend and I went off to IKEA and bought all the bits and pieces we needed to make ourselves a stand-up desk.

We spent £17 at IKEA on a table, shelves and a couple of brackets and then got a couple of Lavolta laptop stands from Amazon.

We (my girlfriend) put it all together and this is what resulted:

Ikea stand up desk

The Standesk 2300 For Two People

(By the way, I realise that it looks like we’ve colour coded the desk with blue for my side and pink for my girlfriend’s, but the simple truth is that her stand is actually red – her favourite colour – and mine is blue because that’s my favourite colour.)

Incidentally, ours is the only standing desk I’ve seen with one desk for two people, adjusted for our individual heights (I’m 6’1″ and she’s 5’6″).

Basically, you have to make sure that when you set the shelves up to hold your keyboard, the shelves are at the same level as your elbows. The screen of your computer should be level with your eye-line so that you don’t need to bend your neck and damage those precious verterbrae.

Obviously, this means that you have to tailor the desk to your specific height.

All of which building fun means that I now stand up for most of the day, using an anti-fatigue mat to prevent excess strain on my legs and lower back.

Speaking of which, there are a couple of down-sides to using a stand-up desk.

The Cons

  • Your lower back and legs will hurt after a couple of hours when you first start. This will last from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how strong your core muscles are. It hurts for a while but you’ll get over it. The pain is because you’re using muscles you haven’t used for a while because you’ve been slouched in a chair.
  • If you don’t use an anti-fatigue mat, your feet will get sore quicker.
  • It takes a while to get used to and you will probably find yourself gazing longingly at that comfy chair when you should be working.
  • Part of getting used to it is that some things you do feel better when you’re sitting down. This is probably more because of habit than anything, so you have to just work at getting into the habit of standing up.

The Pros

  • You get to be healthier and maybe even live longer as a result of your improved health.
  • You might find yourself being more productive because your body is in a more natural position, meaning that blood flow is working the way it should, allowing more oxygen to reach your whole body.

I realise that there are more cons than pros in my lists above, but just read that first pro again. If that’s not enough incentive, then I don’t know what is.