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Frugal and Healthy Living: The IKEA Standing Desk

More and more research suggests that too much sitting is killing us.  This bad news even affects those who exercise at some point during the day and then proceed to spend most of the rest of the day sitting.  Scientists aren't entirely sure how much sitting is bad-- I've seen numbers that suggest 3-4 hours is too much-- but they are becoming more certain that the more sitting you do, the more likely you're going to expire.  

Typically, I spend about an hour doing exercise in the morning, ride my bike to work, then stand and walk about lecturing for 2-3 hours, followed by probably 4-6 hours of sitting, punctuated by periodic walks, before I ride my bike home again, play with the kids, and then maybe sit another 2-3 hours doing work on the computer.  

I also wear a Fitbit on a lanyard around my neck.  It silently counts my steps then lets me know when I've been too sedentary.  I love it because you can't hide from it.  If I've sat too much, it lets me know.  Period.  If I don't hit 10,000 steps in a day, then I know I've done a poor job moving and it is time to get going.  On days with a longer morning run, hitting 15,000 steps is quite doable.  No matter my specifics, if you think you might not walk enough, get a Fitbit and you'll know for sure (or another pedometer-- I just happen to like Fitbit.  You can check out my video review of Fitbit here).  

I've also noted over the years that I feel better when I spend more time standing instead of sitting.  My legs feel less cramped up and atrophied and I don't feel as generally sluggish as I do if I've been sitting too much.

So, I decided to do something about sitting too much to do my work by getting a standing desk.  Problem is, standing desks are expensive, at least $1000 in most cases.  I decided to make my own that would stand on top of my existing desk and still be ergonomic.

I found this pretty neat design for one hacked together with cheap IKEA furniture and it seemed like a good and inexpensive design.  I have very few construction-related man skills, so off we went to IKEA.  Three hours later (and after a plate of Swedish meatballs) the LTNE crew emerged from the store with our boxes of Sweden's finest wood(like) furniture, including the parts for my standing desk, which included:

2 x Lack side tables (birch color) - $9.99 each ($19.98) (You can do this with one, but I use the second one as a stand for a second computer monitor)

1 x Ekby Viktor shelf (black color) - $5.99

2 x Ekby Valter brackets (birch color) - $4.00 each ($8.00)

I had my own selection of wood screws at home.

That's $33.97 worth of parts for a multiple-monitor setup or $23.98 if you are going solo.  

After about an hour's worth of labor (and another hour of untangling and reconnecting all of my cables under my desk), here is the final product, placed securely on the LTNE blogging platform deep within the bowels of LTNE HQ:


Frankly, I love it!  The birch and the black are aesthetically pleasing to my eye.  I have more space underneath to put things like my printer, my Drobo hard drive backup system, my Ooma Telo ultra-frugal phone service (reviewed here by me), and my Blue Yeti podcast microphone, and the iMac and keyboard are the perfect height.  All in all, it is a perfect complement to the full LTNE blogging suite!

(Note:  one day, someone will buy an iMac from one of my links.  In case you want to be that person, here's your chance.)

I did notice that after a few hours my feet would hurt from standing on my wood floor, so I shopped around and bought this Genuine Joe Anti-Fatigue Mat that is 3/8" thick with a beveled edge, and it gives them a little cushion.  At $23.99, it was much cheaper than many alternatives and had good reviews.  I'm happy with it as well so far.

With a standing desk at work and one at home, at least I can't blame sitting if I keel over in the next few years.  Be warned though:  the transition from sitting to standing might not be seamless.  At first, my body rejected it-- as I mentioned, my feet hurt, but I also got a bit of a neck and back ache after a few hours of standing.  Those went away after a few days though and now I feel great!  No more feeling like a sloth after a long day of computer work!

Also, there is one other clear benefit to the transition to standing:  standing while you are working absolutely drives intentionality as I've discovered I'm far less likely to waste time on the computer than I did previously, saving me precious time to get other things done!

So what do you think?  Any potential converts to the standing desk movement out there?  If so, send me your pictures and I'll update the post with them!  

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