Standing in the way of control

It began with too little exercise. Then it was being on my feet all day while working in retail. Then it was too much exercise. Then it was caused by sitting for 8 hours a day…or it could have been the natural curvature in my spine. Whatever the reason was, I have suffered from back ache throughout my entire working life.

Here at Realise HQ, I work as a designer. Y’know, one of those creative types, conceptualising splendiferous campaign ideas and obsessing over the pixel-perfect details. I love my job. In fact, some days it feels almost criminal to get paid to do something you enjoy so much. But, while the perception of the modern design agency to the general public is an eclectic group of creatives brainstorming sketches on the walls and playing with cool gadgets like Oculus Rifts (don’t get me wrong, that happens often) the reality is at some point, my fellow creatives and I, do have to sit for 7-8 hours a day working in front of our shiny silver Macs. The struggle is real.

Jokes aside, in this growing digital age where we are all glued to our screens, millions encounter the same issue. This not only results in bad posture and chronic back ache but studies have even shown that if you sit for more than 23 hours a week, you are 64% more likely to die from heart disease.

Another reason why this subject is so close to my heart is that I am a fitness fanatic. Specifically, CrossFit. And for those who have lifted heavy weights in their lifetime, you will be no stranger to back ache, but you will also know the detrimental effect this has on your ability to keep good form, thus worsening the problem.

3 months ago, I finally got fed up. I woke up every day in excruciating pain, and couldn’t stand up from my chair or tie my laces without making a groaning noise. This may be suitable at the age of 75, but at the tender age of 26, something had to be done. After a few visits to an osteopath, the problem was narrowed down to my sitting position at work, and the subject of standing desks was discussed.

After a week of researching standing desks, the facts speak for themselves. By using a standing desk you can burn up to a third of your daily calorie intake - and for a guy of my size/diet, that is up around the 750–1000 area. Not only that, but by standing you are actually keeping your muscles continuously moving, allowing for better blood circulation. As this prevents your blood sugar levels from dropping, you find yourself increasingly more alert and avoid having those mid-morning/afternoon slumps. Contrary to popular belief, back pain does not occur from using your back, but more commonly arises from not using your back enough. When sitting in an office chair, you are not supporting your upper body by using your muscles, but letting the chair support you. This is why when we start to slouch and roll our backs causing severe stress injuries to your spine. By using a standing desk, we have to use our upper body and core to support our back, thus improving our posture, naturally.

I was sold. Now I had to actually find where to buy a standing desk. Where to start? After some frantic Googling, and looking at the plethora of sleek, well-design, electronic options such as IKEA’s Bekant desk at $480 or the UpDesk UpWrite at $1,149, it became apparent that these bad-boys were not cheap! I narrowed my search to standing desk converters. In other words, a platform that sits on top of my existing desk that is height adjustable. I was pleasantly surprised to find as many different options for this as the bespoke desks themselves, but after reading numerous reviews, it seemed the VARIDESK was the way to go.

Is it the most elegant looking piece of equipment? Certainly not. It was however, the best value for money, and one of the few options that did not make my desk look like something from The Matrix. It’s deceivingly robust - sturdy enough to lean on your full weight on. Large enough to give me a good workspace platform, but without taking over my whole desk. Adjustable from sitting to standing position at the click of a button. Arrives ready-to-go straight out the box and for £230, it’s certainly cheaper than most of your luxurious graphite and leather-clad chairs with 12 adjustable settings, designed to help aid your posture.

The result? I can’t imagine not standing at work now. After the first couple of weeks of being the only guy standing in the room, it feels natural. Of course it does, we are never meant to sit for 7 hours a day. The facts were true – I do feel more alert. More focused without the mid-afternoon slump. Does this mean I stand for the whole day? Of course not. But having the ability to work standing and periodically sit down for the odd 10 minutes, is far better than having to constantly sit without being able to work while standing. But what about my chronic back ache? The reason this whole journey took place? Well, to even my surprise (and my osteopath’s), it is non-existent. It may have taken a member of my family to point out that I was no longer complaining about the pain and constantly massaging my lower back for me to have the sudden realisation, but it’s gone. In fact, it has been gone for so long, I have forgotten what it felt like to have that niggling pain, constantly stabbing my lower back everyday. I can wake up without feeling like I have been drop-kicked by The Rock, and standing up and tying my shoe laces is now groan-free.

Here’s my plea. If any of the above sounds hauntingly familiar, and you are looking for an alternative, but afraid to take the physical (and financial) leap to a standing desk. Do not fret, it is worth it. From my experience, I would find it hard for anyone not to find a standing desk beneficial. Unlike many other medical problems and injuries, there is no reason for you to suffer in silence, the solution exists. Take the leap.

Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?