I guess by now pretty much everyone knows that it’s not a great idea to spend the majority of your time sitting down. But when you’re a researcher and a writer, that’s exactly what you do, at your desk, often all day every day. Now and again you get to go out and sit down in your car, or on a train, till you get to a meeting where you sit down and talk to people. Not a great improvement, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
A couple of years I heard about standing desks, and was interested, though unsure I’d be able to stand for hours at a time. I asked around on Twitter and found some people who liked them and said I’d get used to it. But I still wasn’t sure. Then I found out about sit-stand desks, which let you swap between sitting and standing. That sounded more manageable, but I still wasn’t entirely convinced, and the price was prohibitive with (at the time) nothing available for under £1,000.
Also, the received wisdom is that we should all walk ten thousand steps a day. I don’t have a gadget to count my steps for me, so I did some old-fashioned counting and sums a while back and worked out that I rarely hit 10K, most days landing somewhere between 2K and 5K. I couldn’t see how a desk that simply enabled me to stand would help much with my overall fitness.
Then I heard about treadmill desks. And I really, really wanted one. But the prices were even more eye-watering than for the sit-stand desks. Also, I was worried about how many electrical components could go wrong – which, in a worst-case scenario, could mean shelling out for a whole new ensemble.
Social media came to my rescue, specifically the lovely Nicola Morgan (@nicolamorgan), eminent writer, speaker, haver of bright ideas, and all-round Good Egg. She in turn had been alerted by her friend Vee Frier to the possibility of using a standing desk with an office treadmill. Nicola implemented this ensemble and found that it worked really well for her.
And now I have one too. Specifically: a Stand Steady desk, which sits on top of my old desk (I don’t usually shop at Amazon but they’re the only UK stockist), and an Office Fitness walking treadmill. The treadmill goes up to more than 4 miles per hour; Nicola is happily working at 2.5 mph and I’ve accelerated from 1.5 to 2 mph over the last few weeks. At that speed, I do 76 steps a minute, or 4,560 in an hour. Which means that, in just two hours a day, I do 9,120 steps – and suddenly my 10k target is very achievable indeed. And I have no trouble typing while walking slowly and steadily, as this video demonstrates:
I have no idea whether I’ve lost weight, as I don’t use scales, but I feel a little more toned in places. And fitter. Also, like Nicola, I don’t need to use the heating so much, as moving keeps me warm. The sound of the treadmill doesn’t worry me at all, in fact it’s quite soothing. The only thing I don’t like is that the treadmill stops, after 30 minutes, very suddenly with no warning. I think some beeping and a gradual slow-down would be safer and more pleasant. But I do like the textured footplates on either side of the treadmill, which make it easy and safe to move to a standing position, so I can e.g. reach down to my old desktop for my headphones when the phone rings, and then step back onto the moving treadmill while I chat with whoever has called me.
I can’t walk all the time I’m working – I tried that to begin with, and wore myself out – so I’ve had to create another workstation for sitting (I have arthritis which affects my hands and they don’t work well enough for me to shift everything around when I want to change position). Luckily I have another desk, which already had a computer screen and most of a docking station so, a few accessories later, I was sorted. I can’t imagine going back to sitting all day. I love my treadmill desk!
There are two other things I love this week. One is the first review of my new book on Creative Research Methods, which I was glad and relieved to see is a positive review. And the other is the conference on Creative Research Methods at the British Library conference centre, this Friday, where the book will be officially launched. I can’t wait!