Dumpster Diving For Longevity: Get Up Stand Up
    By Sascha Vongehr | September 5th 2011 12:20 AM | 10 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    Sitting for hours at your desk is bad for you, even fatal in the long run. Paul Knoepfler has recently again made me aware of this – read his Thinking on your feet: practical suggestions for creating and using a standing workstation. There is no point in writing yet another article, because you will have forgotten everything about it after five minutes. So, this here will be different.

    I am in no mood to repeat all that has been said better already elsewhere, like the different opinions at NYTimes. Also The Times told readers to “Stand Up While You Read This” while their business section reviewed expensive standing desks. With the latter, we arrive at the point that I want to get across.

    No – you should not buy yourself a thousand dollar standing desk and all of a sudden, after 30 years of sitting, stand upright 12 hours a day as if that is any better for you (no, it is not), then have a nervous breakdown after a week, throwing the new desk through the window. Whoever told you any such thing? The guys who sell those desks? What a coincidence!

    I'm still standing: Paul sticks to this setup for several weeks now.

    As with exotic diets or exercise, why must they always make some expensive, overly bothersome problem out of everything? So that people in the end do not bother to implement any changes whatever? Guys, this is an important issue: yes, sitting for many hours does indeed harm your body! You will do something about it TODAY, and it does not cost an arm and a leg. I tell you how.

    Here is how you do it: Right now, I mean now, yes now, you take a piece of paper and put it into the coin compartment of your wallet. Done? No? Do it! Now! Yes, right now.

    Whenever you are out anywhere opening the coin compartment, it will remind you of having a quick look around for some box/chair/desk-thingy with about the right height. After a week, you will automatically have your eyes peeled and probably have already found something. That is all – change in your change compartment.

    Here is my solution after three weeks. First the problem:

    I sit for a few hours, and then I take a little wooden chair/desk thingy that I found in the trash, I put it on my desk and my computer screen/keyboard/mouse on top, and that is it. Cost: zero!

    Putting the stuff on top of the desk is a 20 second exercise that belongs to trying to stop killing myself by sitting all day instead of employing more pleasurable methods of doing me in; or in other words, add 10 push-ups every time you do this. After maybe two hours standing like this, I get tired and switch back to sitting mode.

    Where can you find a box/chair/desk thingy? Keep your eyes open – objects of about the right height for you are everywhere. Grab it and try it out. No, it won’t be ideal – but it will be much better than not doing anything, and it will tell you whether the next piece of crap you should find or maybe even buy must be higher or lower. Maybe just another wooden plank on top or sawing off the feet is sufficient.

    Now back to the piece of paper you did not put into your wallet as I told you: Last chance is now.

    UPDATE: Here is Doug Sweetser's solution:


    As with exotic diets or exercise, why must they always make some expensive, overly bothersome problem out of everything?
    Almost every costly, thoughtless solution to a modern day problem has a frugal and creative alternative.
    I'm still standing after more than 2 months at it.

    I don't stand up to work all day long every day.

    I let how I feel dictate how long I stand.

    Some days I work standing all day long and feel fine. Other days I work standing about 2/3-3/4 of the day, and sit the rest.

    I have found that over time I am standing more and more, and sitting less and less. I don't advocate going from sitting all the time to suddenly standing all day long every day. Give yourself time to get used to it. It seems simple, but it's a huge change really.
    Paul S. Knoepfler, Ph.D. Associate Professor UC Davis School of Medicine
    The most important is to avoid a certain posture for extended durations, ain't matter standing or sitting or hanging upside down. If you stand too much, there can be problems like the blood vessels in the legs getting ever larger, triggering arthritis in the knees, ... . I for one cannot stand for long times, never could, period. Like with so many issues, say diet, it is important people understand it isn't about doing the one good thing the more the better (standing, eating only apples for the rest of eternity, ...). I encourage people to not give up just because they may be "only" able to stand for a single hour. That hour already turns 7 hours sitting (= very bad indeed) into two separate 3 hour sitting periods (= not too bad) instead, so it is all worth it.
    Gerhard Adam
    I can't even imagine being able to do something continuously for 7 or 8 hours and not breaking it up.  If I have to stand, I invariably have to take time and sit in between.  If I'm sitting, then I have to take time to get up and walk around or stand.

    This seems like quite reasonable advice, but I'm more amazed at the idea that anyone can actually perform such concentrated activities for hours on end. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    From what I've read the key factor is not sitting or standing, but rather moving! Moving is good for you. 
    Not moving is actively bad for you. 
    Paul S. Knoepfler, Ph.D. Associate Professor UC Davis School of Medicine
    Precisely. And it is certainly true that one moves more standing (like shifting weight from leg to leg) than seated.
    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Thanks for the blog and the links. I may well go for the split level for work.

    For the man-cave though, that deserves better. Dumpster diving is not good for the global economy. I found some folks out in Arizona that sold me this electrically powered gem:

    It is 60" wide by 30" deep. An electric motor does the work. It cost $706.50 back in April. I went to their site,, but only saw manually powered models, bummer. 

    Since it is Tuesday, I just got done recording the blog on the video cam.
    Ya got Science 2.0 on the monitor?? That will earn you a free t-shirt.
    The Stand-Up Physicist
    That is my teleprompter for recording the video blog version for YouTube, so it is in BIG letters, control +++
    I used to smoke, but now even though I don't, I still take the breaks. It adds up to three or four 15-20 minute breaks every hour and a half or so, not counting the lunch break. Okay, so that's a matter of whether or not your boss objects to it as it is with any other standing solution, but for me it works pretty well. Better than nothing I guess, but I could and probably should do better.