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Monday, June 25, 2012

From Sitting To Standing While Typing: Why You Need To Change Your Working Habit

From Sitting To Standing While Typing: Why You Need To Change Your Working Habit

by Bakari Chavanu

standing desk

Writing full-time keeps me sitting at a desk nearly eight hours a day. My office chair is not one of those Lexus ergonomic models designed to take away the pain of sitting, and though I've tried using "take a break" apps like Time Out, I often sit way too long for my health.

So after reading articles and computer ergonomics studies about standing while typing, I decided to try it for myself.

Why Stand?

A few published studies conclude that, "Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity." While the fear of death did not make me get out of my chair more often, back fatigue and lack of energy certainly did.

computer ergonomics

I find that throughout the day when I sit in my chair too long, I become increasingly sluggish, hitting a high point of brain drain by around three in the afternoon, sometimes sooner. And on days when I ignore the "Take a Break" reminders, I become completely burned out with hardly no energy left in the evening.

I try setting straight up on the edge of my chair, taking a stretch every thirty minutes, and sometimes getting around to actually taking a break. But I have discovered that none of these activities are as helpful as standing while typing.

Going From Sitting to Standing

After using a makeshift standing "desk" (see the last photo in this article), I slowly eased myself into standing at my little MacBook Air workstation while facing a large window to my backyard. While I never intended to use my MBA in this manner because the small screen doesn't provide the power of my MacPro setup, with three monitors, I have found that typing while standing can often be energy boost to my work.

ergonomics in the workplace

I'm typing this article using my MBA on top of a WorkEZ stand. After conducting several web searches , I couldn't find an affordable standing desk that fit my needs. I settled on the WorkEZ because it is affordable and is more ergonomic than my plastic shelf setup. (Note: I do have some issues with the WorkEZ Executive Stand which you can read my Amazon review to find out more.)

For the first days of standing while typing, I mainly did it in short spurts--checking my my RSS feeds, browsing the net, and answering a few emails. At first it was very uncomfortable. I thought how could this be better if I'm constantly moving my feet, and switching my weight on one leg and then another?

ergonomics in the workplace

But after the third day I realized that moving my feet, and stepping away from the my laptop was exactly the point of standing while typing. I'm not sure how many calories I'm burning while working in this position (my wife who is a doctor claims the body does burn calories while standing), but I do know I'm stretching my body more and am taking breaks a lot better than when I sit at my computer for long stretches of time.

I have even found that drinking glasses of water while I standing and typing is also an energy boost. The act being out my chair causes me to be more focused, and not spend as much time browsing the net as I normally would. It's a lot easier to take a break because I'm already standing.

Tips On Standing

Eventually I would like to actually purchase a real elevated desk (perhaps one like this desk shown on with a barstool for my Mac Pro and three monitors. For I now feel more comfortable typing articles and other documents while standing, and then editing them at my desk.

computer ergonomics

One of the important things I've learned so far about posture and standing while typing is that it is indeed better to type with your hands near waist level. With my makeshift setup, I typed using the laptop keyboard. With the WorkEZ setup I use an Apple external keyboard that partially leans down on a seperate stand. This helps relax my arms.

Makeshift laptop stand
I also found that having the computer elivated at eye level as much as possible is very important. You get a lot of neck strain when you have to look down at the keyboard and screen. In fact, the WorkEZ desk I purchased is really not as tall as I need. I wish it were few inches higher.

I also found that using a text editor application called Byword is better for typing because it features Typewriter Mode, in which the text scrolls up while typing. This prevents me from having to look at the bottom of the screen as I type. And become I'm typing in front of a large window, I use the app's black background and white font for better visibility.

Unless you're very atheletic or work out at the gym, I don't suggest trying to stand all day. I typically stand for about three to four hours (including breaks!), and then return to my regular desk for a few hours, depending upon the kind of work I'm doing.

If you stand on a hardwood floor, you might also invest in some sort of matt that can be more comfortable on your feet. I stand barefoot on carpet, and after a few weeks I don't feel as much pain as I did in those first few days.

Making the transition from sitting to standing is not easy, but I have found as the computer ergonomics research says, that our bodies are not made for sitting all day. We should be moving around, and I have certainly found that to be the case.

So do you stand while typing? What has the experience been like for you? If you have a photo of your standing desk, feel free to share a link.