How (and Why) to Build a Standing Desk

Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Donald Rumsfield: all warriors, scholars, poets—exemplars of a certain exquisite strain of well-lettered manliness. And, perhaps not coincidentally, they all preferred to work at standing desks. These wise men knew something that science has only recently confirmed—that standing at a desk is healthier than sitting at one. Luckily, you can upgrade your own desk to a standing one for about $25. Here’s how.

Why Sitting Is Problematic

Science is beginning to show that sitting, the most benign of activities, can actually cause some serious health problems. After an hour of sitting, your body essentially begins to hibernate. The production of fat-burning enzymes can decline 90% and levels of glucose metabolism and the levels of good cholesterol. These are changes that are tough to offset with exercise. Worse, in the long term they increase your chances of contracting diabetes and heart disease. Scarier still, a lifestyle marked by extended sitting may actually take years off your life. A study recently showed that men who sit for most of their day were 54% more likely to die of heart attacks, while another showed that men who sit more than six hours every day have a 20% higher death rate.

Why Standing Is Awesome

The benefits of standing over sitting are tremendous. Standing helps regulate your blood sugar, lowers your blood pressure, engages your muscles, promotes better posture, improves balance, and strengthens leg muscles. On average, you also burn 30% more calories standing than you do sitting. Anecdotally, converts claim that they feel more productive, energetic and generally healthier. Many begin by working only a few hours a day standing and then gradually standing more until they’re up to a full eight-hour day.

Build Your Own Standing Desk

Curt's Desk
While there are a bunch of fancy standing desks on the market, you can also build your own on the cheap, by placing your monitor and your keyboard on mounts. Colin Nederkoorn coverted his sitting desk to a standing desk using a few IKEA parts for just $22. Just remember that your keyboard should be at or slightly above elbow height, your monitor should maintain about a 20-degree upward tilt, and your eyes should stay about two feet from the screen.

What To Consider Before Taking A Stand

Standing for eight hours can take its own toll on your body. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes. And, if you’re standing on a hard surface, consider investing in a soft mat. Also, if you have leg, back or knee problems, check with your doctor first, so you don’t accidentally aggravate your condition.

Matt Wolfe

Photo: The Art of Manliness

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