The Ultimate Guide to the Standup Desk

I'm on my 6th month of using a standup desk. I waited a bit before writing this so I wasn't on my high horse writing about something then abandoning it after a month. First a little history… several years ago I injured by back pretty bad playing ice hockey and was bed ridden for weeks. The pain lasted almost a full year before I could do normal things again. Turned out it was a ruptured disk in my back and limited what I could/couldn't do going forward. I've also had a desk job programming since I was 18 years old (now 35) so that wasn't helping. Since then I've had ongoing back pain while working and sitting all day.Several months ago I saw a post on hacker news that kind of just woke me up. I've always wanted to try a fancy standing desk but didn't want to invest the money if I wasn't going to use it. The post was here: It woke me up to the fact I could just use a freaking chair or some boxes to start out with and didn't have to wait for anything, and that day that's exactly what I did. I threw a chair up on a desk and used my laptop on there for the rest of the afternoon. The chair was kind of inconvenient with wobbling and other issues, so I threw a set of drawers upside down and away I went. Here's the first picture I took of my new set up. It's crude but worked!

I decided that I needed to use this setup for a few weeks before I invested any time or money in upgrading my setup. The first couple of days I definitely felt leg soreness, having been not used to standing so much. I decided to shoot for something realistic, 2-3 hours a day out of the chair. Research has shown that sitting all day is bad for you, but so is standing all day as well so I try to strike a balance to break up the day. What did I notice at first? Extremely noticeable increase in afternoon energy and ability to interact with others. Typically when I'm deep in the cut programming I'll have my headphones on and when someone comes over and disturbs my flow it's semi-annoying to be honest, getting broken out of my focus. While I'm standing it's a different feeling, I'm immediately engaged with the person because I'm already standing at their level. It's something I just noticed in the first few days.

I stuck with this setup for a couple days then I noticed a few things… one was that my neck wasn't quite comfortable, I really needed to find a way to get the monitor to eye height while typing at 90 degrees as to not strain myself. The solution? Another cabinet! that's right. Here is my round 2 setup.

This turned out to be almost perfect, but the one thing it needed was a floor mat! You really should invest in a gel mat for your feet to take some of the strain off. It's a lifesaver. Here is the one I ended up buying: Gel Floormat After this I was good to go. I continued using this in the office for 2-3 hours per day each day I was in the office. I work from home 2 days a week so at home I still had the problem of sitting all day. I needed to hack a standing desk at the remote office as well. The problem there was I rent a cube in a shared office so I had to keep it semi-neat and hide-able when I'm gone. With a tape measure handy I measured my perfect 90 degree angle for typing height and what height would get my monitor at eye level. I went off to home depot, and $15 later I had a few pieces of wood and some shelf braces. I then hacked my own pieces I now use at my remote office as seen below:

Again I ordered a gel mat to stand on, and now my remote office was standing enabled! Making my own to my own height requirements turned out to yield a perfect setup for me. I'm typing and looking at a comfortable angle. I use this setup to this day and it's served me well.

Back at Gravity HQ it was time to take it up a notch. Sure standing is good but if I'm standing there I might as well be walking, right?! So the hunt for treadmill desk setups was on. I poured through every picture/article I could find as to the perfect setup. Gravity being an extremely programmer friendly company let me indulge my latest adventure. I ordered a Trek desk and Treadmill I researched that was able to go slow speed and was quiet enough for an office. I finally settled on the Merit Fitness 725T Plus Treadmill. Here she is in action:

So here's the deal with Treadmill desk(at least for me). You need to keep the speed around 1 MPH, anything higher and it starts to get difficult to type properly and keep your focus. The other thing I noticed is I really can only do it when I have tasks that I know what I need to do. For example, if I have to actually think about something deeply I'll have to stop the treadmill and just stand. It's fantastic for times where you just need to bang some tasks out, clean up email, do straight forward programming or other non-mentally demanding things. The awesome thing about the Merit treadmill is that it auto starts at 1 MPH and shuts off after an hour, so I just turn it on and walk until it stops. I'm committed to a minimum of 2 hours per office day on the treadmill desk and I've kept to that for a couple months now. You definitely need to workup to the treadmill desk. Since you're taking such short strides your hamstrings will tend to tighten up the first few days. So make sure you stretch and go easy at first.


In conclusion my back hasn't felt better since my incident and my energy levels at work have been higher. When you're standing you're also extremely more efficient. You spend less time checking twitter, hacker news or other sites. Others have noticed this as well. You just want to get to business while you're standing. I'm planning to keep this post updated with the latest articles I find related to standup/treadmill desks so be sure to book mark this and come back. Here are my pro-tips after the past few months

  • Don't wait any longer, pile up some boxes or cabinets and get busy standing, you'll never go back.

  • Make sure you have a setup where your monitor or laptop is at eye height and your keyboard is a 90 degree angle for typing.

  • Don't try to be a hero - start out slow, maybe 30 minutes the first day and increase by 10 minutes each day until you get where you want.

  • Don't let snide comments throw you, this is for you not others. If they don't see the benefit it's out of ignorance.

  • Wear headphones and dance to the music. I often find myself moving to the beat which burns more calories during the day.

  • It's infectious, people do a double take when you're standing, you can see lightbulbs go off in their head.

  • You burn twice as many calories standing vs sitting


Here are some resources to help you on your adventure!

Products you can buy

Helpful Blog Posts

Treadmill Desk Links

Research on why you should stop sitting all day

Images of other standing desks to inspire you

Ready for More?

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