November 2012

Volume 27 Number 11

Editor's Note - Standing Up

By Michael Desmond | November 2012

Michael DesmondBack in June I blogged about my decision to switch to a standing desk in my office ( Like many developers, I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a PC monitor, and the long hours sitting in an office chair were taking a toll. Sore back, stiff neck, aching right shoulder, numb legs—by the end of the day I felt like I had aged 20 years.

What ultimately drove me to my feet was a growing body of evidence that sitting all day is a real health risk. A long-term study of 7,744 men by the University of South Carolina ( found that sedentary lifestyles dramatically increase the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease. Men reporting more than 23 hours of sedentary activity a week were 64 percent more likely to die from heart disease, according to the study, than those reporting less than 11 hours of inactivity. A 2012 study from the University of Missouri, meanwhile, continuously monitored the blood sugar levels of participants over two three-day spans—one featuring regular physical activity and the other reduced activity. Researchers found that participant blood sugar levels spiked during the days of lower activity. (

And really, I didn’t need medical studies to tell me what my body already knows. Sitting for 10-plus hours a day is not good for me. So I don’t sit anymore.

I got started on the cheap. I grabbed a few spare file boxes to serve as pedestals for my two LCD displays (27 and 24 inch), keyboard, mouse and 11.5-inch notebook. The setup had all the visual appeal of a couch dumped on a front lawn, but it worked. And within a couple days I noticed something. The aches I encountered after a long day hunched over the keyboard were gone. Granted, my feet hurt a bit and my knees were sore, but I felt much better in the evenings than ever before.

It’s been four months since I switched to a standing desk. The file boxes are gone, replaced by a chrome wire shelf set on 14-inch posts to lift my monitors close to eye level. And while I’d love to move to a convertible desk that can be raised or lowered to a sitting or standing position, I’m too cheap to make the commitment. But as one reader pointed out to me in an e-mail exchange, paying $800 or more on a convertible desk, such as the GeekDesk, could be money well spent.

“I came to the conclusion that if I can spend $1,000 on ski equipment that gets used maybe 10 to 20 times a year, I can spend about that on a desk that I’ll use every day for years,” wrote Jason Linden, an analyst/developer at Boeing in Everett, Wash. “You could maybe even deduct it [for tax purposes] if you meet the requirements.”

In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to stay comfortable. I take occasional breaks, repairing to a sofa to put my feet up while I read a manuscript or take a quick phone call, and I keep a tall stool handy so I can sit down occasionally at my workstation. I also started standing on a padded yoga mat a couple months back, which has really helped. Another reader wrote that a small foot stool under the desk can help with fatigue as well, and I plan to give that a try.

I’ll continue to tweak things, but after four months it’s clear that my standing desk experiment has been a huge success. Have you moved to a standing desk or found another solution? E-mail me at

Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.