James A. Levine is an accomplished gentleman. Both and MD and a PhD, this double doctor is a principal investigator for National Institutes of Health-funded studies, concentrating on health for immigrant families, increased activity and better nutrition, interactions between sleep and obesity and “multilevel approaches to reduce obesity in working mothers and their children.” He is well-known as a world authority on obesity and an international advocate for child rights. His internationally-best-selling 2014 fiction novel, “Bingo’s Run” hoped to bring light to the dark topic of exploited children.
Dr. Levine is, perhaps, best known for his anti-obesity mantra – “Sitting is the new smoking.” That explains the other book he wrote in 2014, “Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It.”
It is kind of interesting that powers-that-be have been preaching the gospel of in-flight exercise on long-haul plane rides to avoid health issues, but only relatively recently has it occurred to us that sitting at a desk for twenty or thirty years might be harmful. According to any number of Journals of Medical Stuff, a sedentary lifestyle puts the immovable at a greater risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, stroke and a host of other maladies.
The good news is that both employers, DIY-types and office supply vendors have caught on that ‘standing desks’ are a good thing. The options for creating a standing desk, however, are as wide and varied as there are … well … people.
When I first passed the golden age of fifty (not saying how long ago), it occurred to me that turning the credenza in my office into a counter-height desktop could be a great, and for our building, innovative thing. However, this older, (seemed like) cast-iron furniture would not budge voluntarily. The initial solution involved phone books and bed risers, purchased from one of those Bed, Bath & Breakfast-type retailers. On the up side, it got my primary workstation up to about fifty-five inches off the floor. On the other hand, it took two days and four people to elevate this thing, so, if I ever got tired and wanted to sit down – tough.
Lately, there are a number of solutions out there in the marketplace these days that are much easier to work with. Several vendors now market a tabletop appliance that can raise computer work surfaces to elbow height when desired, or left at regular levels when not. In my office, we have thankfully moved on to other, more modern, furnishings, including the option of credenza with magic switches that can raise and lower the table hydraulically in a matter of seconds.
So, if you are fortunate enough to have a job that requires more brain than brawn, these are tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle in your office, cubicle, managed desk area or otherwise bullpen:
- Get up. If you can pull it off, stand more than you sit. But the main thing is – get up.
- Skip the elevator. Yes, but only if we’re talking a few floors. If the obstacle is a few dozen, you’ll be doing nobody any good by passing out when you get there.
- Try standing meetings. Next time you’re responsible for putting together a meeting, print an expedient agenda and remove the chairs from the room. You’ll be astonished how quickly business can get handled and everyone back to their day.
- Move around. Laptops are meant to be portable so, port them. Change your scenery to another room, a break area or conference room. Not only will you get up and move, but the visual stimuli will enhance the creative thought process.
- Rig a standing desk. Wherever your computer is located, grab some bed risers, phone books or whatever and create a standing desk situation. Have a counter-height chair standing by for fatigue.
- Buy a standing desk. There are a number of “add-on” products, build-it-yourself products and turnkey motorized products that will transform a traditional desk to a standing desk of various heights at the flip of a switch.
- A good floormat is key. A standing desk without a good, perhaps gel-filled, floormat is asking for fatigue without as much the health benefit. With a good mat, you might pay for it up front, but you’ll stand longer and therein lies the benefit.
- Important safety tip. Have you ever accidentally snagged the power and peripheral cords of your beautiful 27-inch iMac under the foot hardware of an adjustable credenza and watched in horror as the whole rig slid off the back of the furniture in slow motion, just out of reach, before crashing to the floor with an expensive and heart-rending thud? I’m asking for a friend. Anyway … be sure your cords are clear.
If you live in a place like Amsterdam, where everyone owns 2.5 bicycles, a standing desk might be a redundancy. However, if you live in a less-than-temperate climate like Texas, where you would melt into the asphalt if you tried to bike to work in July, standing at your computer or getting out and about in your building can be easier than you think.