Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
11 Sep

How-To: Standup and Mobile Workstations

A few years back, my general manager and editor hurt his back deadlifting. He found the only way he could comfortably work at a desk was to stand. It worked really well for him, even offering benefits above and beyond the improvements in lower back pain – stuff like improved energy levels and increased focus and cognition. Once his back recovered, he continued to stand because of these benefits. It eventually spread to the rest of us at Mark’s Daily Apple and Primal Blueprint, prompting me to devote an entire post to standup workstations.

The first standup desk at our headquarters was cobbled together using a stack of shipping boxes laid flat, but, as the video shows, we’ve improved on it. And, as more of our workers have taken up the practice, we’ve realized that while standing in one place all day may be better than sitting in one place all day, it’s not ideal. Man was neither meant to stand nor sit in place. You stand long enough and you start resting on the desk, leaning forward or to either side and picking up some other bad habits. Some research even indicates that standing at a desk all day comes with certain risks of its own, including increased risk of varicose veins and carotid artery damage. Now, we think in terms of the mobile workstation, and emphasize changing things up throughout the day (i.e. sitting, standing, and walking).

In that vein, we’ve brought in treadmill desks. My favorite is the TreadDesk, a standalone treadmill that fits underneath most desks. It’s just the tread; no podium, no handles, no bulky set-up. Super simple. You walk while you work at the computer. Some folks do around 1.5 miles per hour, others can handle a little over 2 mph, but the most comfortable range seems to lie between 1.5 and 1.8 mph. Every worker gets a TreadDesk if they want one and if it makes sense for their job.

The real beauty of the treadmill desk is that you never feel that incessant need to workout tugging at the back of your mind. Since you’ve already done 5, 6, 7 miles at work, you don’t necessarily have to find time to trudge off to the gym. You can relax, unwind, and spend time with friends and family after work. It doesn’t replace exercise, but it certainly takes the edge off it.

If a TreadDesk doesn’t work or make sense for someone, I encourage frequent movement: walking, squatting, pushups, pullups (there’s even a bar in the office), a light jaunt outside in the Malibu sun. The key is to break up the stasis. Even just five minutes every two hours is plenty.

Since our shipping department processes hundreds of orders a day, we’ve made a simple but revolutionary change to the setup there: we bumped the tables up eight inches. This allowed the guys to do all their packing, taping, and shipping standing up straight, with open hips, rather than bending over hundreds of times a day to reach the materials. 45 degrees of hip flexion doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up (and eventually turns into dangerous lumbar flexion!) and wears the body down.

At home, which is where I do most of my work these days, I don’t find I really need the TreadDesk, since I’m the boss and I can take as many breaks as I need. Instead, I have a Locus Workstation from Focal. This is a great standup desk with a “human kickstand” to lean against when you get sick of standing, promoting excellent posture and proper ergonomic angles.

I reached out to Focal to see if I could score some kind of special deal for Mark’s Daily Apple readers. They provided me a coupon code that gets you a free anti-fatigue mat ($75 value) with purchase of a Locus Seat. Just add the mat to the cart and use the code “Upright!” during checkout. (They also informed me about their affiliate program, so full disclosure, the Focal link above is an affiliate link. If you happen to purchase something from them after clicking on the link, I’ll earn a small commission. Proceeds go towards maintaining Mark’s Daily Apple.)

The mobile workstation is a no-brainer for me – and for anyone, really. Not only does it promote better health in my employees, it makes work more enjoyable and workers more productive. And though the gadgets and the treadmills and the fancy desks might make staying mobile easier, they certainly aren’t required. Anyone can get up and go for a short walk, right?

Standup and Mobile Workstation Tips

1. Start with short bouts of standup time – use boxes to elevate computer
2. Take 5-minute walking/exercise breaks every two hours
3. Practice good posture – elongated spine and proper ergonomic angles

Do you have a standup workstation? How have you found it? Do you stand all day, or mix things up? Let everyone know in the comment board!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. “The real beauty of the treadmill desk is that you never feel that incessant need to workout tugging at the back of your mind.”

    Right there is the reason to get the equipment!!!!

    Cody wrote on September 11th, 2013
  2. Anyone know if you can buy the TreadDesk in Canada?

    Lindsay wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • I am not sure about the TreadDesk, but I bought this sit/stand desk a couple weeks ago and LOVE IT! I like that it goes on top of an existing desk – makes it more portable if I need to move it.

      http://www.fitter1.com/Catalog/Items/VD.aspx

      Only $350 too for the dual monitor version!

      Cathy wrote on December 13th, 2013
  3. OK… 4 minutes into the video I started worrying what was in those frittatas my wife made me this morning

    Stevemid wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • Sort of felt like the weekend was making a comeback, eh?

      Nack wrote on September 11th, 2013
  4. That Lotus workstation is beautiful but pricey. I am going to start with a stand up desk at the $200 price point.

    Colleen wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • Good luck trying to find a desk at $200. Stand-ups are still in the niche market and highly overpriced.

      Let me know if you do! Because i’m currently hurting (desk jockying) at work.

      Joel wrote on September 11th, 2013
      • I changed to a standing desk about a year ago and will never go back.
        I found a nice, moderately inexpensive modular desk set at IKEA that allows for an elevated surface height and has sectionals that you can put on different height risers for mice, monitors, keyboards, etc. It allows for fast and easy removal of any unnecessary platforms if I want to spend a few minutes sitting on my kneeling chair and working. Then I just put them back onto the desktop to return to my standing position. This way my keyboard can be at the optimum height and my mouse or monitors can be at a different height if I like. Whole setup with elongated L shaped work surface and underneath file cabinet was about $1000.

        Lynn Clark wrote on September 11th, 2013
      • I should say it was pretty basic as I intend to use for 1-3 hours per day or so as a break from the computer and regular desk. If I order in the next day or 2, I will post link.

        Colleen wrote on September 11th, 2013
      • I can’t afford one either.

        So I make do with my “Asian Squat” Workstation:

        I squat in front of my computer that is set atop a stool!

        No chair either…

        LOL!

        jon wrote on September 12th, 2013
      • I built my own standing desk workstation about three months ago for under 30 bucks and it’s been working great! You can customize it to any height you need as long as you take your measurements right.

        I agree that Locus Workstation look incredible, but I don’t think I could ever spend that much on a desk. Maybe one day I’ll work at a company like Mark’s… fingers crossed :)

        My standing workstation:
        http://imageshack.us/a/img850/4613/i55w.jpg

        Kyle wrote on September 12th, 2013
        • beautiful job! Simple and elegant.

          tkm wrote on September 13th, 2013
      • Try Varidesk. $300.00. Sits on top of your desk and rises to desired height. I have had mine for a week and totally dig it.

        Clint Friday wrote on September 13th, 2013
    • I just purchased a “Varidesk” from Amazon. I think it was the “pro” model. $300! I love it! Easy to set up and adjust. Very simple, and there’s even room for a legal pad as well as a keyboard on the keyboard platform.

      Rich wrote on September 18th, 2013
  5. I had a similar experience incorporating standing. I built a makeshift desk riser out of 3 pieces of wood but also noticed I tended to just end up slouching in different ways. It’s hard to get into the habit of taking that break and moving every so often. Drinking a lot of tea during the day helps, if you know what I mean…

    Pete wrote on September 11th, 2013
  6. I wish I could rig up a treadmill desk, but that’s not in the picture at the moment. I do love standing while I draw or paint, though, & have just convinced one of my sons to try standing up while doing schoolwork on the computer!

    If my feet start to get tired, I find it helps a lot to stand on alternate legs for a while. I like to do it yoga tree pose style as it further opens the hips, but you could also just rest one foot on something.

    I’m a natural wiggle worm, so I’m constantly shifting positions slightly (in a MUCH healthier way than when sitting, when I tend to twist my legs into weird contortions without realizing it).

    Also I keep my rumble roller under the drawing table, & once in a while treat my feet to a nice little massage. :-)

    Paleo-curious wrote on September 11th, 2013
  7. I use a makeshift stand up work station- my laptop on a wooden step stool on top of my kitchen counter top. Sounds crazy, looks a little crazy, but I don’t look like that crazy woman all hunched over after a day hunched over at my desk anymore!

    kate wrote on September 11th, 2013
  8. Very cool! Loved seeing how everything works for and acknowledgment that there are different types of desk work that require different types of set-ups from person to person (Siena’s cave).

    Plus it was good to see the people that work for you, Mark! :-)

    Alison Golden wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • I used this guy’s website for a DIY tutorial on how to make my own treaddesk. (http://www.treadmilldeskdiary.com/) and made my own treaddesk using a Ikea Jerker desk (from Craigslist $25) and a dismantled cheaper treadmill ($250). I had to figure out how to switch between the sitting desk and standing desk quickly ( I only walk for 4 hours a day) ….made tread desk with bluetooth peripherals and casters to move away in 1 minute to convert to sitting desk…cannibalized a treadmill to just it’s treads and controls. Still trying to find an ergonomic wireless mouse and keyboard., but this is a great start

      Marcy wrote on September 11th, 2013
  9. I asked about a standing desk and was told that I had to have some kind of medical problem to get one. ??!! Pathetic! So I now have my monitor on a box. My mouse on a huge stack of binders. And my keyboard on a lap tray for a computer. I love it. I’ve always been fidgety and standing lets me do it. Fidgeting while sitting would have my legs twisted up in wierd position because I can’t sit like a “normal” person with both feet on the floor. I’m also too small/short to be able to fix the chair right and still be able to work sitting. If I wear heels then I bring in socks and just take my shoes off.

    Heather wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • “Back pain”

      It’ll cost you an $80 visit to your MD for a note. (If you’re an American that is.)

      Mrs. Strom wrote on September 11th, 2013
      • Exactly – that’s what I did. Everyone who comes to see me now says, “oh, you must have a bad back.” Well, I would if I sat all day for the next 2 decades of my career, in addition to a myriad of other problems!

        Sue wrote on September 12th, 2013
  10. For office use, the “commercial grade” equivalents of these are made by a company called Steelcase.

    Their “Airtouch” height adjustable desk rocks — http://tinyurl.com/25uvwsw

    Their treadmill desk is also height adjustable — http://tinyurl.com/6qbj3qv

    Fit_guy wrote on September 11th, 2013
  11. I work in a cubicle and thought I’d never figure out how to get a standing workstation that didn’t look trashy. Then I saw the plans here: http://iamnotaprogrammer.com/Ikea-Standing-desk-for-22-dollars.html and I made a very nice setup. I have 2 monitors, so I used 2 Lack desks, 2 shelves, and four brackets. I’ve since made the legs a bit shorter and inserted 1.25″ square dowels into the legs (the legs on the Lack tables are hollow), and added adjustable shelf brackets so that it would still work ergonomically if I need to sit down. I have a drafting chair for when I need to sit while I work, which is rare now. (It took about a week to get used to working standing up.) I sit when I eat lunch, but that’s pretty much it. Our IT manager recently went to IKEA and bought some desks to make himself a standing desk. I get lots of stares when people walk by, but I think they’re starting to get the idea.

    Karla wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • This is exactly what I did for home and it’s been working great.

      Rob wrote on September 12th, 2013
  12. Loved the video, especially the leaning stool! Where is it available?

    This is a great video on posture by this doctor Eric Goodman at Ted:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBlM5in2IQA
    A really great stretch for those breaks!

    Ro wrote on September 11th, 2013
  13. Treadmill desks are a “liability” and not allowed at the company where I work. So I asked for and received a tall “stand up” desk then bought a $100 mini-elliptical machine (from Amazon, search for In Motion Elliptical Trainer) that I use for hours. And hours. The only drawback is that it is difficult to keep my heart rate at 55% of my max and type…

    Tiffany wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • That is a genius idea! 1/10th the cost of the tread desks :)

      Josh wrote on September 12th, 2013
  14. Any thoughts on how to get the head honchos around here to support this idea? So many people would benefit from this but to purchase one on my own is way out of my price range (and I’m not sure if that particular one ships to Canada, although I’m sure there are others!). I feel like so many people could benefit from it but my workplace isn’t great with the whole work/life balance thing.

    Karen wrote on September 11th, 2013
  15. If you want to get a good in-office solution without buying a whole new desk, there’s a new company in DFW that is making a great option: http://www.varidesk.com/how-it-works

    Casey wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • I purchased one of these for my desk about a month ago and I love it. For $275 plus shipping it was much cheaper than buying a new desk. It adjusts easily and allows me to shift from sitting to standing as needed. It’s big enough to hold both my monitors and is steady enough I do not fear them flying off!

      Kris wrote on September 12th, 2013
  16. Great post! I have been standing at my desk for about a year now. I have a laptop and I sit it on an iCraze lap “desk” which I configured to stand on my regular desk. I purchased it, along with an attachment for my wireless mouse (called Mouzpad, I think), for about $50 total on Amazon. Maybe I’ll graduate to the Treaddesk one of these days, but I sometimes still want to sit and sometimes need to write too.

    Jarrod wrote on September 11th, 2013
  17. My company just got 2 new treadmill workstations. You can sign up to use them for an hour at a time. They have been booked every time I walk by them.

    Tom T. wrote on September 11th, 2013
  18. We have used our ‘mobile desk’ for about a month now. When considering a standing workspace, I knew immediately that standing would be challenging, but walking would be the ideal situation-as Mark describes above. After much research and finding either unstable-rigged setups, or super expensive pre-maide desks, I am thrilled with what we finally ended up with. Since my husband and I are sharing the space, the desk needed to be easily adjustable. I found a table base called a Multi Table at amazon.The Multi Table has a hand crank to raise and lower the desk. They also have an electric version for more $. Mutli Table sells a top, but I found a nicer, cheaper option at IKEA-a 72′ countertop. To raise my iMacs off the desk to eye level, I bought a “LACK wall shelf” that is 43″ long and attached the shelf to 4 ‘CAPITA Legs’. The bottom of the ‘legs’ are foam covered so they protect the desk surface.
    Because the Multi Table is adjustable, and IKEA has many countertop colors and cut-to-size options, you really can make this YOUR space. Color options and desk surface (countertop) are many.
    Finally, I paired it with a Lifespan treadmill. They have two options- one for 3hr a day use and one for 6 or more. I am thrilled with it’s function and truly feel like it is a superior option for WAY less. The next best option on my list was the “uplift 900″. Very nice option, but can get pricey too.
    We have $650 in an infinitely adjustable desk that is 73′x25 and $1k in the heavy use treadmill (LifespanTR-1200DT) I don’t regret my purchase and will be using this for years to come! (I do not work for any of the above companies, just sharing what we did in the hope that it might be an option for someone)
    Have a great day!

    PaleoChille wrote on September 11th, 2013
    • I neglected to mention that this desk works great for walking on one side of the desk and a sitting area beside the treadmill. Simply crank the desk down to a comfortable level and have a seat! One would have to have the leg in front of them, but it sets back so it doesn’t come into contact with the seated person. The leg support on the floor is low profile so your office chair would have no problem getting right next to the desk (imagine an ‘L” that has the short leg toward you, or google the desk for a visual).

      For this option a monitor stand with an arm that would easily swing from side to side would be ideal. A keyboard tray might also be desirable. Both of these options add some expense to the desk, but it is a two in one solution for about the cost of just a ‘small’ standing treadmill desk.

      PaleoChille wrote on September 11th, 2013
  19. I had a sit-stand that would adjust height between sitting and standing levels. I liked it a lot. One thing I noticed is that I could really tell when my sleeping and eating habits were off or when I was feeling really stressed. During those times I noticed that my sitting time increased dramatically and I could stop and reflect how I needed to adjust to get back in the game.

    I recently switched jobs and am back to square-one with the traditional desk. I need to find a new (cheaper) standing solution.

    Seth wrote on September 11th, 2013
  20. I paused the video about 4 minutes in, went into the warehouse, got an old recycling bin and a piece of shelf and voila, I have a standing desk. Thanks Mark!

    Tara F wrote on September 11th, 2013
  21. Thanks for the show & tell of mobile / standing desks at your office and at home. Very interesting stuff.
    I’m not sure I would be able to do the tread-desk, but a standing desk is an interesting idea.

    Beth wrote on September 11th, 2013
  22. I couldn’t imagine workkng a desk job. Sometimes I’m glad to be able to use the computer sitting.

    Matt wrote on September 11th, 2013
  23. What about “standing” on your knees? I work in a cubicle, and I don’t think the suits will let me modify my desk, but I could reach everything just fine at this level if I were on my knees. Anything research on that?

    Skyler J. Collins wrote on September 11th, 2013
  24. This is a great product I use for laptops that can just be placed on top your current desk. It’s also great if you want to use your laptop in the bed. Eliminated a lot of serious neck pain I had from reading.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002LNVMIS/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Zach wrote on September 11th, 2013
  25. I have been using a makeshift standing desk for just over 4 months now. And I love it! Because I had to just makeshift what I could out of the reception desk, I had to jump in and am not able to break up the standing with sitting very often. And I always love the tips/reminders on things I can do to keep it healthy on your site!

    I am always looking for tips on more subtle things I can do frequently to break up the standing. I am at the front desk like I said, and things around here are very strict, so hourly exercises are challenging (can’t get caught doing a set of push-ups not during a break time). I do try and do pushups/squats when the opportunity presents itself (maybe 2 or 3 times through the day). And go for a 5-10 minute walk at lunch. So in general I have a tendency to become very stagnant, while I walk around some, its only ever 30 seconds at a time going to the printer etc, not enough to get the blood flowing before it’s back to the standing. Any suggestions/ideas are appreciated.

    Megan wrote on September 11th, 2013
  26. Workin’ with babes!

    Me watching this right now:

    http://tinypic.com/r/6ejk9g/5

    Joe wrote on September 11th, 2013
  27. For anyone looking for a super cheap standing desk option: http://iamnotaprogrammer.com/Ikea-Standing-desk-for-22-dollars.html

    Sarah wrote on September 11th, 2013
  28. I work from home and use a kneeling chair. I converted to that after realizing I was slouched down for 8 hours a day with the keyboard at chest level. Slugdom was in my future. I’ve used a kneeling chair for about 8 years, now. You can’t ‘sit’ in the kneeling chair for more than an hour without discomfort. So you are forced to get up and move around. I also put on a pedometer every morning and make every attempt to log 10,000 steps (5 miles). After seeing this video, I think I may convert to a standing/treadmill desk. For the desk, I would just buy a tall heavy duty fold up table like the ones I use in my painting studio. I do most of my painting, standing. I store all data online, so don’t need a desk with storage. For now, I need to use the current set up until end of life – a few more years. Thanks for this info!

    bamboo wrote on September 11th, 2013
  29. The whole time I was watching the video I was thinking I want to work for Mark! :)

    Naz wrote on September 11th, 2013
  30. Cool video. I like the new use of the format. Do you know where that pull up station is from? I’ve been trying to find a cheap flexible format to use at my apartment, but everything is huge and expensive.

    Justin McCullough wrote on September 11th, 2013
  31. Love the leaning lotus chair – hope someone posts a DIY version to Instructables soon for those of us who can swing the $690 for it.

    barb wrote on September 11th, 2013
  32. A few months ago I purchased an Ergotron WorkFit-S Combo LCD and Laptop Sit-Stand Workstation (http://www.provantage.com/ergotron-33-340-200~4ERGT0KU.htm) that clamps to my desk and supports my keyboard and Mac Thunderbolt monitor, plus a worksurface. A fraction of the cost of most other stand-up solutions.

    I quickly switch between standing, sitting, and perching (with a straight back) on a draftsman stool with circular footrest that cost under $100. The pain I used to feel in my hips toward the end of the day is gone. As a 61-year-old software engineer, I was getting worried about being unable to do my job. This has removed that worry (now I just worry about competing with others less than half my age).

    Scott O wrote on September 11th, 2013
  33. I made a DIY standing desk and it gave me terrible tendonitis in my mouse arm after about 6 weeks of use. I have to refigure some things–it’s difficult to figure out the best ergonomic placement and where everything should be. But the first fews weeks before the pain set in I felt invincible and wonderful!

    There are a million DIY standing desks instructions out there, but this is one of the best I’ve seen–both for money and aesthetics:

    http://kotaku.com/how-to-build-a-healthier-pc-gaming-table-for-under-200-510211038

    Bev wrote on September 11th, 2013
  34. Excellent information. I’ve heard exercise balls are a good replacements for chairs. Mark, do you have more information on this topic?

    Thanks,

    Carlos wrote on September 11th, 2013
  35. What a great employer you are!

    Mountaingirl wrote on September 11th, 2013
  36. Hi Mark,

    Great video on your office and the benefits and use of stand up desks. I’ve been using a stand up desk for a few months and as its my home office keeping it on the cheap side.

    Check out this Youtube link for a $28 stand up desk set up from Ikea that goes on top of an existing desk.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykGspcKFlTg

    Best,
    Mark

    Mark Stewart wrote on September 11th, 2013
  37. Can this be written off in taxes as business expense?

    Kevin wrote on September 11th, 2013
  38. i have a stand-up computer station and a sit down desk for paperwork – wish i had that chair leaning post thing mark has thats awesome

    lockard wrote on September 11th, 2013
  39. http://iamnotaprogrammer.com/Ikea-Standing-desk-for-22-dollars.html

    I used the link above as a guide to make a modification to my current workdesk to make a standing desk. BEST DECISION I EVER MADE!!

    I have been using it for about 2 months now and am beyond happy with the decision. I also have a table in my office I can use on the rare day I don’t have meetings. Otherwise I use my meetings as my sitting times and my desk is standing.

    Heather wrote on September 11th, 2013
  40. Well Mark if you work mostly from home and can take as many breaks as you want because your are the boss, then I imagine the bees are taking as many as they want as well since you aren’t there to watch them :-) Go bees!

    I enjoyed the peek at “Primal HQ”.

    Peter wrote on September 11th, 2013

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple