Sunday, February 6, 2011

Is working standing up too expensive? It could cost you as little as $10

Spending too much time sitting down is clearly unnatural, particularly if you sit down on very comfortable chairs. Sitting down per se is probably natural, given the human anatomy, but not sitting down for hours in the same position. Also, comfortable furniture is an apparently benign Neolithic invention, but over several years it may stealthily contributed to the metabolic syndrome and the diseases of civilization.

Getting an elevated workstation may be a bit expensive. At work, you may have to go through a bit of a battle with your employer to get it (unless you are "teh boz"), only to find out that having to work standing up all the time is not what you really wanted. That may not be very natural either. So what is one to do? One possible solution is to buy a small foldable plastic table (or chair) like the one on the figure below, which may cost you less than $10, and put it on your work desk. I have been doing this for quite a while now, and it works fine for me.

The photo above shows a laptop computer. Nevertheless, you can use this table-over-table approach with a desktop computer as well. And you still keep the space under the foldable table, which you can use to place other items. With a desktop computer this approach would probably require two foldable tables to elevate the screen, keyboard, and mouse. This approach also works for reading documents and writing with a pen or pencil; just put a thick sheet of paper on the foldable table to make a flat surface (if the foldable table’s surface is not flat already). And you don’t have to be standing up all the time; you can sit down as well after removing the foldable table. It takes me about 5 seconds to do or undo this setup.

When you sit down, you may want to consider using a pillow like the one on the photo to force yourself to sit upright. (You can use it as shown, or place the pillow flat on the chair and sit on its edge.) Sitting on a very comfy chair with back support prevents you from using the various abdominal and back muscles needed to maintain posture. As a result, you may find yourself unusually prone to low back injuries and suffering from “mysterious” abdominal discomfort. You will also very likely decrease your nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is a major calorie expenditure regulator.

With posture stabilization muscles, as with almost everything else in the human body, the reality is this: if you don’t use them, you lose them.