Why a Standing Desk Could Save Your Life—for Under $200

The standing desk revolution is underway. Are you a part of it?
September 18, 2013

Studies upon studies over the past few years have shown that sitting kills, even for those who are otherwise active. Sitting slows one's metabolism and lowers the levels of good cholesterol in a person's blood. The long-term health hazards of prolonged sitting are even worse, including increased risks for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Today's office culture of sitting at a desk for eight hours daily, then, is downright frightening. Just four hours of daily sitting, researchers have found, is the tipping point into risky sedentary behavior, but even one to two hours of daily sitting increases a person's mortality rate.

Join the Standing Desk Revolution

So, what can you do? Sit less and be more active! For starters, get a standing desk.

The big issue with sitting is that muscle activity drops when you sit and your body stops burning calories. Standing, though, is an active activity, as opposed to the extremely passive nature of sitting. When standing, you're forced to engage your back and core muscles. I find myself shifting from leg to leg and moving around often, as standing still is a pretty difficult task, it turns out!

Since switching to a standing desk, I've noticed a marked difference in my posture and core strength. At first, standing is a bit uncomfortable, with lower back pain and foot aching being quite common, but your body adjusts accordingly to accommodate the new habit. After a few weeks, though, the aches subside. I, for example, noticed within weeks that I started standing up straighter than ever. I now find myself more conscious of my posture and am quick to correct it—an activity that was rare before having a standing desk.

For the past two and a half years, I've been using a standing desk at work, but hadn't quite got around to furnishing my home office with one. I recently relocated to the Boston area, though, so I made it a goal this month to find or build a standing desk.

As my budget would determine, building was the most economical and realistic option. Most of the options tend to range between $500 to $1,000 and look absolutely horrible. The most common designs have huge, plastic adjustable legs and scream corporate America.

I happened to find, however, a standing desk guide on Lifehacker, which inspired my final design, composed of IKEA parts and tallying up to just under $175 when purchased in-store. Online prices, it turns out, are a bit higher, as they probably include built-in shipping costs.

My design is composed of four adjustable, chrome legs, a large table top, and a smaller shelf for housing my laptop and external monitor. This design has proven to be optimal for my needs and provides enough desk space for taking notes and reading.

To build the desk, you'll need the following parts from IKEA:

You'll also need a drill and a screwdriver for putting the brackets and table legs in place.

The instructions that come with the legs and brackets will get you through the entire process, as long as you understand that the small shelf goes on top of the large one. From there, you're all set and on your way to owning your very own hand-built standing desk, all for under $200!

Be sure to tweet pictures of your new standing desk to @ericaswallow, and let me know how you feel after your standing desk revolution is underway!

Erica Swallow is a tech and lifestyle writer, technology entrepreneur, and MIT Sloan MBA candidate. Follow her on Twitter @ericaswallow.

Photos: Victoria Young / Courtesy of Erica Swallow