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Celebrating my standing desks

Image: Hearts, love, and snow flakes

Last summer I swapped my regular desk at home for a standing desk in anticipation working more at home during my sabbatical.

For non academics reading this, sabbatical leave isn’t time off work, it’s time to focus on writing and research rather than teaching and administration. Our usual workload is 40-40-20, teaching, research, and administration. But during a sabbatical it switches to 90-10, research and teaching. The 10% teaching =graduate student supervision. No matter what PhD supervision continues apace. You can read about my PhD students here. In past years I’ve traveled for my research leaves. Here’s looking at you University of Otago! Miss you Australian National University!

But this time I promised the kids we’d stay at home. A workload of 90% research and writing usually means lots of time sitting. But that’s not for me, and in particular not good for my back, hence the standing desk. I’ve done a fair bit of physio over the years and my sitting posture stinks. I’m a great walker, stander, rider, jogger and sitting isn’t healthy anyway. See the infographic below with apologies for the obesity link. 

Infographic removed and replaced with a waving photo of me. See Tracy’s concerns below about ableist messaging…

Early into this “fittest by fifty” project I also read Drop Dead Healthy. (Here’s my brief review.) The standing (or walking) to write is one of the recommendations AJ Jacobs keeps after a year of trying out lots of different fitness advice.

My standing desk is nothing fancy. I followed the instructions on one of the very many “how make your standing desk out readily available materials” websites. I loved it.  If I ever decide to do the “treadmill desk” thing I ‘ll also be going the DIY route. You don’t need a good treadmill, with fancy controls and bells and whistles. After all, you’re not gong to run on it. You’re going to turn it into a desk so buy one of the very many treadmills for sale in thrift stores or on online used goods venues.

I put in a request for a standing desk at work and that’s even better. It’s fancy and moves up and down so I can sit some the time and stand when I feel like it. The moving up and down proves useful at work because I wear heels of different heights and I don’t always like to write barefoot. At home I write in barefeet and I have a very comfy mat that I stand. It’s designed for chefs who work long hours standing on hard floors. I found it a fancy kitchen store and I love it.

So do I still love my standing desks? Yes.

My back certainly does.

I also love the energy and feeling of being alive and on task that comes with standing. It reminds me of a lesson I learned doing radio. Stand to talk. You sound better. I think I write better standing too. Posture matters and standing makes me feel engaged and in touch with the ground. Like I have something to say. It’s true also that when I give research talks I have to stand. Sitting is pretty much a guarantee that I won’t feel as good about it.

I tend not aimlessly web browse when standing. I’m much more focused. The joke is that I save that for my smart phone. I once joked on Facebook that if sitting is the new smoking, then flopping on your bed using your smart phone must the new heroin.

It’s also been a very active year (lots of running, biking, lifting and throwing and being thrown) and it’s been a year without back problems! That’s exciting for me. Typically all of my back problems have come from sitting after riding. Now I’ve started standing in meetings too and standing at talks. I haven’t quite worked up to walking and talking with grad students but I’m almost there.

I love my standing desks.

See also:

Short answer to the last question: NO!

Image: Me waving from my standing desk, learning to use the timer on my phone camera
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