How To Set Up A Stand Up Desk And Why It Could Save Your Life

Recently in the news you may have heard some rather alarming data was released about the impact sitting down for long periods of time can have on your health.

When I was younger I’d sit down in front of the TV for entire days sometimes, watching TV or playing Nintendo. I noticed if I did it for around six hours or more I’d feel particularly bad.

Despite knowing this from experience, I have to say that I’m still a bit shocked at the data that’s come out about just how bad sitting down is for you. You could say that the obesity epidemic in Western countries (Australia is the 6th fattest country, America is first, you can see the obesity ranking statistics here) is caused not just by the amount of processed, fatty, salty, sugary foods available in extra large portions, but also because we sit down all day.

That’s a dangerous combination. Why? Because you put all this junk into your body, then by sitting down for long periods you switch your body off from doing anything with it.

One of the best decisions I ever made in terms of productivity and health is to switch to a stand up desk.

I can’t recall where I first saw the idea of using a desk that you stand up at, it was probably a blogger who made the switch and wrote about it, but I do remember who finally swayed me to make the change myself.

I was studying Eben Pagan’s “Wake Up Productive” productivity course. During one of the modules Eben talked about stand up desks and why they are more effective. Shortly after this I went down to Ikea and bought myself my first stand up table.

I have used it ever since.

People who have not used a stand up desk before often wonder how someone can stand at a desk for eight hours a day to do work.

Of course if I was standing up for eight hours straight, then yes I would get tired. These people are coming from the frame of reference of the full time employee, where it’s natural and expected that you stay at your desk for the majority of your time at work.

As an independent entrepreneur, I have the wonderful freedom of structuring my work day how I like. This is actually a very important point when it comes to a stand up desk, because spending more than two hours in a row at my desk will tire you out.

A quick aside – one of the other concepts I picked up from Eben, who I believe learned it from Tony Schwartz, is the concept of the Ultradian Rhythm.

The descriptive term ultradian is used in sleep research in reference to the 90–120 minute cycling of the sleep stages during human sleep.

Some of the other ultradian cyclings of the body are hormonal release, heart rate, thermoregulation, urination, bowel activity, nostril dilation and appetite. – Wikipedia

The body has two hour rhythms of energy flow, so it makes sense to work in harmony with these cycles.

Even before I heard of the Ultradian Rhythm I have always worked in roughly two hour blocks. Actually, it’s more accurate to say I “live” in two-hour blocks.

I generally get hungry two hours after last eating. I tend to get bored after two hours of doing the same thing. I can exercise for two hours before I completely tire out. I like to socialise for two hours before I want to do something else.

Obviously you can push yourself to go beyond two hours, but the diminishing returns really start to kick in after that. You quickly fatigue or drop in output quality or lose focus.

I like living life in short blocks, with rapid change of format. This is what I call balance. The Ultradian Rhythm just happens to back this up from a physiological standpoint.

As an entrepreneur who has the freedom to work in harmony with my two-hour cycles, I never have to work for eight hours at my stand up desk.

I work for one or two hours at a time, take breaks, walk off to cook food, sit on the couch, listen to music, have a nap – I mix it up every day.

Most people can’t do this at their work place, but since you’re likely an entrepreneur if you read this blog, you have more freedom in your life, or are at least working towards it.

It’s because of this that you are the perfect candidate for a stand up desk.

Even if you have a full time job, given the data on the risks with sitting down, now is a good time to think about convincing whomever you need to about having stand up desks available at work, or at the very least, changing how you work so you don’t sit down for long uninterrupted periods.