Don’t Read This Sitting Down, Or, Why I’m Buying a Standing/Walking Desk

It's better for your body not to work at the computer sitting down

Are you sitting down?

Get up!

My husband, who is something of an exercise nut, has been forwarding me articles for several years now about the dangers of sitting still.

Sitting slows your metabolism.

Sitting for long periods cancels out the benefits of exercise.

Those who sit are more prone to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

“Scientists are increasingly warning that sitting for prolonged periods — even if you also exercise regularly — could be bad for your health,” the AP reports. “And it doesn’t matter where the sitting takes place — at the office, at school, in the car or before a computer or TV — just the overall number of hours it occurs.”

The New York Times suggests sitting may even be lethal.

But I, like so many Americans, work … you guessed it, sitting down.

A day in the life of a professional writer and editor usually includes several hours of writing and editing (which I do on a laptop on my knees while I sit cross-legged on a couch in my office), interviews by phone and Skype, maintaining social media, following up with editors via email, and the like. Though I also have an in-real-life writing group, network with other professional over coffee every few weeks, and travel quite a bit to conferencesto give talks, and to write travel articles, I usually spend at least four or five hours at a stretch sitting down.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? As children and young people we are told by our teachers to “Sit down!” for years. As adults we now know we need to stand up.

Enter the standing desk.

I’ve been thinking about buying one or setting up a makeshift desk for years.

I recently moved my office from inside our house to an outdoor converted storage space. It took us all summer to buttress the roof (it was caving in), buttress the walls (ditto), drywall the space, install a floor (which we did very cheaply by finding seconds at a flooring store and installing the floor materials ourselves), and paint the office.

I left a space free for a desk. But I left my desk inside the house because my 12-year-old asked if she could have it.

I’m finally doing it — replacing my desk with a standing desk. The Internet is a daunting place. Google “standing desk” and you’ll get 576,000 hits. I’d rather have a stomach flu than go shopping, on-line or in real life. So instead of spending hours sitting down and surfing the Internet, I asked my peeps on Facebook.

Leah Ingram made her own standing desk.

As did this Frugal Man, Melanie McMinn (aka Frugal Kiwi)’s significant other.

I’m all for inexpensive and DIY. We make our own laundry soap and I got crafty recently and made these pop-up puppets with my son’s class.

But my husband completely refurbished the converted office himself, working alongside a paid friend. We saved all kinds of money with that project, and now what I really want is a nice desk to go in it, not the gimcrack system that we’d probably come up with that would be end up being hard to adjust or not wide enough for the computer or otherwise uncomfortable.

What I want is a nice desk that someone else has already designed and created.

So when my colleague Linda Bowman, a freelance writer, editor, and writing instructor, enthused so unequivocally about her set-up, her comment really caught my eye:

“I’ve been using a treadmill desk (Trek Desk) for about three years,” Linda wrote on Facebook (reprinted with permission.) “I love it! It has saved my back and I burn lots of calories, too. It was $500 three years ago; the treadmill was $500 from, and it still works perfectly (you can spend lots of money on treadmills, but I didn’t want bells and whistles).

“The cool thing is that you can walk as fast or as slow as you want. When I’m writing, I usually slow down to 1.5 mph (which is still burning calories, but I’m not breathing hard or sweating). But when I’m reading/researching or doing emails/FB, I kick it up to 3.4 mph … One of the best decisions I’ve ever made!”

She’s not getting kick-backs from the company, she swears. She’s just a happy customer sharing the love.

That works for me.

So on Linda’s recommendation, I’m buying this Trek Desk.

Don't sit down, it's bad for your health

It costs $479, including shipping. It doesn’t come with the snazzy low-to-the-floor treadmill in the picture though. My plan is to stalk Craig’s List, my friends’ garages, and the upcycle stores in town for a treadmill.

I’ve noticed lately when lifting my suitcase into the overhead bin that it feels heavier than it used to. And that there’s a little too much love in those handles around my middle. Some might argue these are the inevitable results of aging.

Screw you Mr. Gravity.

I’m no longer going to take it sitting down.

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Categories: on writing.


  1. Melanie

    Great post Jennifer. I have been meaning to do something like this for years–I sit for WAY too many hours for work every day.

    Been thinking about a fitdesk (desk bike combo)–although I guess that’s still sitting.

  2. Tangren

    If you haven’t bought your treadmill yet – I started out with a second-hand treadmill, and when it developed problems I could not find anyone to repair it! Looked and looked. Tried the repair guy at the Y; he only does theirs. Finally went to Sears and bought a new one with a guarantee – the guy comes every year to check it out.

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