Standing Desks for Writers: Worth the hype?

Standing Desks for Writers: Worth the Hype or An Expensive Coat Rack?

Published in 2018 by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests that adults should sit less and move more to experience “immediate and longer term benefits for how people feel, function, and sleep.”

Sit Less, Move More. Thank You, Captain Obvious. 

This isn’t rocket science, nor is it new information. What is new in our aim for increased productivity is how we’re incorporating movement into our lifestyles, including standing desks and treadmill desks, although their benefits probably aren’t as significant as one might think. Surprisingly, using a standing desk burns only minimal added calories than sitting. And while treadmill desks can increase the opportunity for meeting activity guidelines, they’re only effective if they’re used as more than an expensive coat rack. 

While they’re not a magic fitness pill or even a caloric-burning boon, reports suggest standing desks for writers can still offer tangible benefits, such as lower blood pressure, improved circulation, better posture, and a faster return of blood sugar levels to normal after meals. 

Roland Denzel, founder of and a restorative exercise specialist who works with authors, offers a few observations and suggestions for those just starting out. He says one mistake that authors make is trying to stand too long or not changing positions often enough, leading to frustration and fatigue. He recommends changing things up with combinations of sitting and standing, aiming for at least five minutes of movement every thirty minutes. 

He recommends leveraging the Pomodoro method many writers use to write in twenty or twenty-five minute sprints and using the five-minute break between sprints for movement. Once you’ve gotten used to it, you will eventually learn that it\’s possible to write more words in sprints with movement than you would in two hours uninterrupted. 

More Tips from the Team

We asked a group of users for feedback and suggestions for those considering buying new equipment. We’ve edited their responses for clarity. 

  • Consider the surface on which you will stand. I found a padded floor mat increased my comfort standing for long periods.
  • From working retail, I can vouch that your lower back is much more comfortable if you have the option to occasionally put one foot up on a ledge or block of some sort to change up your stance.
  • I have a stand/sit desk and a wobble pad to stand on so I can shift between surfaces to eliminate fatigue. I\’m a huge fan of being able to shift between standing and sitting. The option to change the surface you\’re standing on is huge too.
  • If you have even the slightest issue with motion sickness, skip it.
  • Just because you have a standing desk, doesn\’t mean you\’re better off. Pay attention to your posture and the ergonomics of your workspace. An improper keyboard/mouse/monitor placement will still wear you down.
  • I have an adjustable height desk that I paired with this treadmill. The only thing I\’ll say is to make sure you have a way to turn it on and off easily in case you get phone calls. The treadmill isn\’t too loud, but the noise can still be distracting on the phone. Also, work yourself up in terms of time. 
  • I bought a standing desktop that you just set on top of your existing desk. It\’s a cheaper way to find out if you like them instead of investing hundreds of dollars in a product you might not use.

Try Before You Buy

If you’re concerned about committing to a hefty price tag, one recurring suggestion from our respondents suggested starting small. Stack books on a sturdy surface and try it out for a week or two. If it works, then consider making the investment. You can determine if it fits with your lifestyle and fitness goals before shelling out big bucks. 

Work with What You’ve Got

Another suggestion is to purchase small modifications, such this height adjustable desk for your existing treadmill or this under-desk recumbent bike. Each is under $150 and doesn\’t require rearranging your workspace to test if they’re a good fit.

Beyond the physical benefits, this article from Draft2Digital provides a more compelling reason to try out a standing desk: improved concentration and focus, which every writer certainly needs. 

Whatever your motivation, with a little careful planning and some realistic expectations, the health benefits of using a standing or treadmill desk can make a profound difference for you. 

(Thanks to Roland Denzel, Ashli Faron, Jamie Davis, Chris Miller, Chris Patterson, Heather Lynn Thompson, Jackie Dana, Marion Hermannsen, Kendrai Meeks, Christine Mecklenborg, Kimbra Swain, Paul Sating, Jen LaSalle, Rose Castro, Kasia Lasinska, Anne Marie Scott, Ivy Nelson, Deb Davies, Cedar Edwinloomis, Debbie Carver, and Tommy Landry for their suggestions.)

The full interview with Roland Denzel can be found here