This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Develop in the Cloud, sponsored by AT&T. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Develop in the Cloud site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Stand, Walk, Move

How bad is it for you to sit all day? It's bad.

Software developers are particularly prone to a modern malady: sitting down all day. It's seriously bad for you, no matter the shape you're in.

The word for it is "sedentary," and more and more research is demonstrating how harmful a habit it can be. Earlier this year a study of 200,000 people in Australia found a clear, and nearly linear, correlation between how long a person sat per day and their risk of dying in the next three years. The New York Times, in yet another survey of not sitting down, quoted "inactivity researcher" Dr. James A. Levine at the Mayo Clinic: "The solution seems to be less sitting and more moving overall. You might start by simply standing rather than sitting whenever you have the chance."

The wrinkle that the most recent research has aded to this picture is that sitting is bad for you no matter what your physical condition is otherwise. Even those who exercise moderately to vigorously, and have for many years, are more inclined to heart disease, cancer, and other ills the longer they sit.

Many people also think better while moving. Last weekend, the Times profiled the prolific blogger Maria Popova, who writes (and schedules 50 tweets per day) while balancing on a wobble board. "When my body is moving, it's almost like it takes the wind out of this mental spinning, and I'm able to focus," Popova told the Times. Surely she is not alone. I find I think better on my feet while walking. Some of my most creative ideas have occurred to me when my body was engaged in some demanding but relatively automatic activity such as clearing brush.

When did white-collar workers, let alone information workers and those who think for a living, get the idea that sitting down was the best posture from which to carry out their daily activities? It has been some time within the last 100 years, according to reporter Steve Lohr in the Times: "In the 19th and early 20th centuries, office workers, like clerks, accountants, and managers, mostly stood. Sitting was slacking."

Demand for standing and convertible desks is skyrocketing, the Times reports. At the high end, Steelcase provides both standing and walking (i.e., treadmill-equipped) desks to large corporations, and they have seen demand quintuple over the last 5 years. Small companies have sprung up to cater to customers lower down the market. Adjustable and standing desks in the $500 range include those from Ergo Desktop, whose "Kangaroo" sits on an ordinary desk and adjusts quickly to standing height. And Trek Desk's products accommodate a variety of treadmills supplied by the customer, at a similar price point.

Ideas for do-it-yourself standing desks abound on the web. Here are solutions for free and for $22.

Personally, I'm still sitting for my entire workday, but researching this post has lit a fire under my determination to find a workable standing desk solution.