Freelancing 2.0 - Standing Up For Standing Desks

Rebecca Tucker writes about arts, culture, food and cats for the National Post newspaper. Earlier this week, she turned her focus to standing desks in a piece that dismissed the value of standing desks, and mocked studies that claiming a overly sedentary life is unhealthy and harmful. Under the headline "Standing Up for Sitting Down," she ends with this nugget of wisdom:

"Don't spend thousands of dollars on a standing desk; do stand in line at the airport, and make take the stairs at lunch. It's free."

She suggests that if you stand up at work, you're just "more likely to go home and sit down," pointing to a recent UK study that concluded using a standing desk resulted in "a meagre 20 per cent" reduction in sitting time over the course of a day.

I've always liked math, and I've always liked words. In my experience, they both matter. Now when somebody writes about "a meagre 20 per cent," my spidey sense starts to tingle.

I've never met Rebecca Tucker. But it seems a fair wager that if she learned her salary at the National Post was about to be cut by 20 per cent, "meagre' probably wouldn't be the first word that jumped into her head.

In fact, let me you how un-meagre an 11-percent (Corrected from 12-percent) difference has meant a whole lot to me.

About four years ago, with my weight hovering around the 225-pound mark (Corrected from '205), I knew I had to change. Part of that change was buying and using a standing desk. A few months into the school year, I spotted a standing desk on sale at a local office supply store. The top is about 3 1/2 feet wide, 2 feet deep: big enough for a laptop, some space on either side for extra hard drives and a notepad, and some space behind the laptop for various bits and pieces that tend to find their way to my desktop. The wheels make it easy to move around the house.

The first few days were uncomfortable: sore joints, tired muscles, but like any other unaccustomed exercise - and trust me, this is exercise - the aches and pains soon dwindled. And slowly but surely, so did my waistline.

Now you need to know that I don't stand all day every day. Just as you'd take a break now again on a long walk, I take the occasional break in a comfy chair or lying on a couch. But most of the working day is spent on my feet. I stand up while talking to friends and clients, reading and answering emails, editing video, and writing pieces about this and that, including how to survive as a freelancer, or the benefits of standing up over sitting down.

Now back to that un-meagre 12 per cent: just four years after buying my inexpensive standing desk, I've broken the 180-pound mark. By my count, that's 45 pounds lighter, two pant-sizes smaller, and a hell of a lot fitter.

In fact, using a standing desk has made me far less likely to sit down outside the workplace. At the airport, while everybody else sits waiting for the plane to board, I prefer to stand, knowing we'll all be crammed into shrinking airplane seats for hours. At conferences or workshops? That's me standing at the back, while everyone else sits in horridly uncomfortable chairs, then slowly push themselves up at the end, complaining about their sore backs.

But I do agree with Rebecca on one point: you don't have to spend thousands of dollars for a standup desk. There really are inexpensive, effective options. Hell, if you're half-way handy, you can make one for next to nothing (the easiest to make fit on top of existing desks), although I do like the wheels on my store-bought model.

Otherwise, from my point of view, the rest of her suggestions are pure bunk. And I'm not much impressed with her take on simple arithmetic: 20 per cent does matter.


Linux and Windows web hosting plans start at just $7.95/mo.