Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 29: A Stand Up Guy

My home workspace, with makeshift risers under the front legs of my desk.
I've added a new little dimension to my health-kick lifestyle: Standing as much as possible.

I've always had an affinity for standing, although people who stand for a living will tell you that any chance not to is Heavenly. But even U.S. Marine grunts have a rule about this which, from any other outfit, might sound downright lazy:
  • Never stand when you can sit
  • Never sit when you can lie down
  • Never stay awake when you can sleep
I still remember my uncle telling me when I was six or seven that standing while riding the New York City subway was good practice about learning to keep your balance, which, he said, would come in very handy while on a ship at sea. Since our family had no maritime history or prospects I had no idea how this random suggestion could be a practical life skill. But my uncle was/is a cool guy, and it sounded cool, the way the acquisition of almost any skill does.
As it happened, I didn't grow up spending any time on the water. But I don't still don't mind standing on the train even when there are seats available, and I like to stand while eating or watching TV. Standing around the kitchen island doing both simultaneously is my idea of a good time.

I haven't had job which required standing since I was in school — bookstores, movie theaters. My adult occupations have always involved offices, desks, and sitting for hours at a time.

At about the time I started on Weight Watchers in February my wife Nancy pointed out a New York Times article about the benefits of standing at work. These benefits are staggering in their simplicity and effectiveness, but they are hard to do in most corporate contexts because the cubicles and desk units the enterprise generally buys in massive quantities are designed to be in front of chairs. Indeed, even suggesting employees stand at their desks could be actionable or draw OSHA's unwelcome attention.

But at home, it's another matter. I am lucky to be able to work from home from time to time. I am also lucky to have inherited for the moment Nancy's drawing board, so I don't have to make an investment (monetary, mental, etc.) in the sort of thing Ryan Paul at Ars Technica wrote about this week.

A couple of risers (or a makeshift shim at pictured) on the front is all I need, since the desk surface plane adjusts back and forth.

It's working out great. Standing for hours at a time is a bit strenuous, but in a very good way. Like all of these little kick-it-up-a-notch things, the process becomes a mini-competition with oneself. Sitting down to work would be a tiny capitulation, just like not taking the stairs at work.

As the NYTimes article notes, there are all kinds of core strength stuff going on merely by standing up. So why not?

You can sit when you're dead. Unless you can lie down, instead.

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