DIY Standing Desk

This post describes why and how I made a standing desk. That is an arrangement by which one can work standing up.

The why is easily explained: Because "sitting is the new smoking". Google that you will get several nice articles explaining why.

The  upshot of it is that sitting for long overs increases the risk of all kinds of diseases (don't ask!) and the daily exercise will not help if the individual continues to sit for long hours.

So they recommend standing while working to reduce the risk of such diseases.

Thus, the idea of a standing desk, which Wikipedia says was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries regained popularity. The concept is illustrated below. Notice that the desk is as high as the person's elbow.

"Standing desk illustration" by Angus McIntyre and Mattthew
"Standing desk illustration" by Angus McIntyre and Mattthew

Many corporates offer such desks and some officials are even offered a desk with a treadmill (walking desks)!

While the long-term health benefits of using standing desk are not yet clear, I think we can all agree that sitting all day is not healthy and working while standing up for an hour or two should not do much harm, if not any good.

Why I considered and made a standing desk.

Thanks to my career choice, I never had a sedentary lifestyle. Experimental physics and teaching kept me on my toes for long enough periods in a week until about 3 years ago.

When I developed an auto-immune disorder (Myasthenia Gravis), my life was turned upside down. It effectively ended my ability to work in a lab or what I considered more important, hands-on development of a teaching lab curriculum.

It also threatened to end my first love, teaching, but thankfully I have been able to resume that.

So like the turn of a switch, from an active lifestyle (when I actually felt the fittest in years), I was forced to sit/lie down the whole day for many months.

While the lying down has reduced, the sitting has increased.  Although I am able to exercise decently these days, the excessive sitting could nullify it. However, I can only stand for short stretches of time.

So I wanted an arrangement in which I could quickly switch from a sitting desk to a standing desk and vice versa. DIY was the only choice, as the models I saw online did not allow me to rest my forearms ( I have got weird requirements!)

The main reason I write this is to suggest that you

1) could consider using a standing desk if you have sedentary lifestyle
2) do not buy one in a hurry. Constructing  a DIY standing desk is simple. You can customize it as you wish.

3) do not abandon your sitting desk! Standing helps, but not standing all day long. Even a 25% reduction in sitting should make a significant lifestyle change. Everything should be done in moderation.

4)  You can easily make one at home or at work. You can even push your employer to provide a 'standing work' area if it is not already available.

How to make your own standing desk

1) You need a solid study desk. We have a family heirloom which was used by my grandfather. I have used it since I was 9.

2) Stand near the desk, bend your elbows and hold out your arms above the desk. Measure the distance from the top of the desk and the bottom of your bent elow. That should be the height of your standing desk.

3) Find a solid, wide stool for nearly that height and place it on the desk. If the top area is small, the computer wll not be stable.

4) If you are using a laptop a simple plank or wiring pad can be placed on the stool. For desktops, a wider stool may be necessary.

That is it! Your standing desk is ready. This is how mine looks.

DIY-Standing-Desk-India
The standing desk at home. Hope to get one for work too.

Since I needed elbow support, I used a few books.  Modern portfolio theory and 'The thoughtful investor' were good fits! I use a separate keyboard for the laptop.

Disclosure: the table was cleaned for the photograph! Happy to report that shabbiness has been restored in the area.

I can stand and work with this arrangement, dismantle it into a sitting desk in under a minute.  I save myself about 5K in the process!

If the laptop is removed I could use it as writing desk while preparing for class.

The best thing about standing while working is that the inertia associated with a movement is extremely low when compared to sitting. This is the key health benefit. We tend to move about more when we stand, than when we sit! Duh!

Caution: sitting or standing, an erect posture is important. The posture in the picture above is not healthy! Leaning into the desk can cause neck and/or back pain.

Do consider a standing work arrangement, but tread with caution.

I have categorized this post under health insurance. I  hope I am right.

What do you think?

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21 thoughts on “DIY Standing Desk

  1. Sandip

    Awesome lines are these "the table was cleaned for the photograph! Happy to report that shabbiness has been restored in the area.". Very rare or nowhere in a personal finance blog site one can notice such nice sense of humor.

    Reply
  2. Sandip

    Awesome lines are these "the table was cleaned for the photograph! Happy to report that shabbiness has been restored in the area.". Very rare or nowhere in a personal finance blog site one can notice such nice sense of humor.

    Reply
  3. bharat shah

    very helpful hints for health point of view. thanks. however i did not understand "Caution: sitting or standing, an erect posture is important. The posture in the picture above is not healthy! Leaning into the desk can cause neck and/or back pain." as i found the person in first picture seems me strait erect, not leaning. or i missed/misunderstood something?

    Reply
  4. bharat shah

    very helpful hints for health point of view. thanks. however i did not understand "Caution: sitting or standing, an erect posture is important. The posture in the picture above is not healthy! Leaning into the desk can cause neck and/or back pain." as i found the person in first picture seems me strait erect, not leaning. or i missed/misunderstood something?

    Reply
  5. John

    Pattu sir

    It is interesting to note that the walls by the side of the stool contain nice drawings just like walls at my home. After seeing the Photograph, almost everything looks just like my home.

    Jokes apart, thanks for the nice, useful and informative article

    Reply
  6. John

    Pattu sir

    It is interesting to note that the walls by the side of the stool contain nice drawings just like walls at my home. After seeing the Photograph, almost everything looks just like my home.

    Jokes apart, thanks for the nice, useful and informative article

    Reply
  7. manish

    A pleasant surprise to see the post related to Health on a finance blog! Indeed health is another important pillar of our life as finance. Since you are covering personal finance in much detail, why don't you cover other pillars of life as health, mental, social, spiritual wellness?

    Reply
    1. freefincal

      Thank you. My experience with health has been different from the average. My own mental, social and spiritual wellness is questionable. So ... 🙂

      Reply
  8. manish

    A pleasant surprise to see the post related to Health on a finance blog! Indeed health is another important pillar of our life as finance. Since you are covering personal finance in much detail, why don't you cover other pillars of life as health, mental, social, spiritual wellness?

    Reply
    1. freefincal

      Thank you. My experience with health has been different from the average. My own mental, social and spiritual wellness is questionable. So ... 🙂

      Reply
  9. sandeep

    After I read the heading, i had visualised something like this may be there, and yes it is.
    thanks for the article and the solution you have reinforced. Will catch hold of my carpentar today and get it done.

    Reply
  10. Anish Mohan

    Dear Pattu-Sir, the one thing that draws my eye whilst seeing the photograph is the picture of the Lord Tirupati Balaji. The one who believes in Lord Venkateswara will find his ways out of the subterfuge of difficulties in life, Edukondalavada Venkatramana Govinda Govinda... The concept of standing desk is indeed unique and my prayers to Lord Balaji is to keep you healthy to carry on doing such social work for thousands of Indians...

    Reply
  11. vijay

    Recently I was interacting with someone suffering from infertility. Being a close friend, he could share more details. Apparently, according to the doctors in Apollo, because he was spending a lot of time sitting, that added its contribution to the problem (higher temperatures in that area). Apart from this there were other things also - like using laptop on the lap, using hot water for bath, not much raw veggies in the diet,....[I don't recollect all the details]

    The first thought that struck me when he mentioned that sitting thing was this title/headline I've been reading everywhere but never bothered to read in details - "sitting is the new smoking". He now has to get up once every hour or so...walk around a bit etc....

    Thank you for sharing the thought in the light of your own personal experience.

    Reply
  12. Nirmal

    Dear Pattu,

    Reading the first half of the blog, I almost concluded that you took to carpentry! I was fooled just in the nick of time when I saw your ingenuity in DIY stuff. Simply superb! Now i am getting my hands on improvising my standing table, thanks to you!

    Best,
    Nirmal

    Reply

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