If you’re an artist or a writer, it’s a fair bet that you spend most of your time sitting. And if you have an office day-job, the amount of time you spend on your butt hunched over a screen is probably the vast majority of the time you spend awake. As studies have shown, this is pretty darn bad for your health, but what can we do? It’s not like we can draw while we’re at the gym!
This was the conundrum I faced when I was still working as an Engineer. I had frequent migraines, muscle spasms in my back, and near constant pain in my neck and shoulders. I wondered what I could do to escape the curse of the chair without abandoning the necessity of my job or the creative work that gave my life meaning.
A Stand-Up Solution I Couldn’t Afford
The solution that many people proposed was the standing desk. It forces you out of the chair and onto your feet. Even some prominent web-based creatives decided to make the switch. I looked at John Green with his treadmill desk, pledging to write his next novel entirely “on the go” in his office.
Naturally, I was eager to get on this band-wagon full of smart and successful people. Until I saw the price-tag. John’s treadmill desk cost $1,500+ and I was fresh out of a handy carpentry-inclined sibling. I wasn’t even sure a standing desk would work for me, so what was the point? Then I had another migraine. I decided to keep looking. Eventually, I did find a solution.
A Standing Desk for $200 or Less
Here’s my current work-station:
The key components are:
- The Cuzzi LM1 31.5″ Laptop Over Bed Table ($128 + $32 S&H)
- IKEA BRÄDA Laptop support folding stand ($9.99)
- Crown Comfort King Anti-Fatigue Mat ($21.88)
Which brings us to a grand total of about $192, depending on where you buy. Also pictured are a side-table and a bar stool I stole from other rooms in the house, but you could probably find similar items at a garage sale for not too much extra expense. The desk itself is adjustable, raising up to a height of 38,” which is a little short for me (I’m 5′ 7″) which is why I added the stand on top. The anti-fatigue mat is a must, because your legs are going to get VERY tired a lot faster than you imagine, and the mat can help prevent new health problems caused by too much standing. Speaking of which, in my research I discovered that standing all day isn’t a guarantee for perfect health. Turns out that it has a whole bunch of health issues on its own. The ideal situation is that you do neither sitting nor standing for too long. It’s the variety that’s important. Hence the bar stool. Just be careful not to get too comfortable in the chair again, otherwise you’ve lost the whole point!
The Impact of Standing
Overall I’ve really enjoyed the switch to a standing desk. I feel more active, engaged, and focused when I’m standing. My work ethic received a boost, as I find that the temptation to answer email, surf the web, or engage in other computer-based time-wasters is much less. I was more energized at my engineering job as well, even though I was sitting at a desk there. Now that I’m working in a classroom, I find that I have more stamina for activities that involve standing, such as instruction. This has also had an unanticipated benefit at conventions. The adjustment period was a bit of a struggle, but not too bad. My research recommended taking it slow, going for just 15 minutes at a time. However, when I was drawing I’d get “in the zone” and quickly forget the physical strain of standing. I’d regret it at the end of the day when my knees and legs ached. However, the soreness was quick to fade, and now I have little trouble working for hours at a time while on my feet. An added bonus is that I find myself dancing as I work. A fun tune comes on the radio and my feet at last have license to boogie! It’s made creating a page even more fun. It is not a magical weight-reduction device or easy trick for a toned body, but I do feel healthier now than I did before the switch. If it’s something you’ve been considering, maybe take a look at my low-cost solution, or do some research of your own to get you up on your feet and out of the chair!
I know my solution is not the only one! Do you have a low-cost alternative to a standing desk? What have you done to make your work station more ergonomic? Share your solutions here, so that we may all escape our back pain and misery, while still keeping in a cartoonist’s budget!