You may already have it pegged as the cause of your own mounting health issues, but at the very least you’ve by now heard the invective: sitting is the new smoking.
As exciting technological advancements in the secrecy shrouded subculture of vaping and the accompanying dubious claims about its own health benefits seek to make smoking itself obsolete, attention is now turning towards sitting.
More and more people are sitting than ever before, and thanks to the loss of the hourly smoke break providing a well-needed stretch of the legs, doing it for longer as well.
But short of a return to an agrarian society, workers in today’s Modern Digital Agile Knowledge Based Economy now have little option but to sit as they wile away the hours in front of their computer screens, patiently watching the clock tick down until they can free themselves from the office to stare at their phones on the train to their home, where they can at long last put the stresses of the work day behind them and look at a different screen.
Attempting to find a way to ease this transition in the awful dead space between screens, I’ve recently embraced the once revolutionary concept of the standing desk.
Using the Varidesk ProPlus 36 ($550) for four hours a day is claimed to be equivalent to running more than 18 marathons every year, a statistic I am sure is true in terms of caloric burn only and not reflective of the actual toll placed on the body or how much people will be impressed when you tell them.
Bold health claims are all well and good, but how well does the Varidesk, and its promised miracle abilities to solve an eclectic range of sitting linked issues by lowering your blood pressure, reducing the risk of Cardiovascular Disease, reducing lower back pain and improving your posture, stand up to scrutiny?
The Varidesk ProPlus 36 is a heavy unit, owing to its solid construction.
The frame is all metal, while the surface appears to be a veneered MDF.
The ProPlus 36 is available in black, white and darkwood (other models in the line are only available in black).
I have opted for the darkwood and I’m confident in saying it’s the best looking of the three, even if it’s not real wood.
While initially heavy, once you’ve gotten it in place that’s the last you’ll notice of its weight.
A spring-assisted hinge makes raising and lowering the two-tier desk as easy as pulling the two levers on either side, which disengage the pins that keep the desk locked in place and effectively help the desk rise on its own.
This design also allows for multiple height configurations so users can pick the one best for their height, but as a Tall Person, I found the fully raised position was still ever-so-slightly not high enough for my liking.
The two-tier design provides plenty of space for a keyboard, mouse and screen, as well as providing an ergonomic height separation between them.
I tested the desk with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard and I would recommend a similar setup, as wires on a product with this many hinges and pinch points is going to lead to problems no matter how pedantic your cable management.
Additionally, depending on your connected computer placement, finding cables long enough could prove its own issue, as the desk moves not just up but out when in standing position.
Embracing this wireless freedom will also provide one less visual metaphor to boost the feeling of being shackled to your desk.
Standing desks seem to come predominately in two flavours, height adjustable desks that can be raised or lowered with a hand-crank or electric motor, and the desk-on-top-of-a-desk style seen here.
Of the two I would say the Varidesk is a lot more flexible and easier to retrofit, as well as being quicker to raise and lower, though it does somewhat limit how much stuff you can fit on the height adjustable portion of your desk.
The VariDesk is an elegant solution for giving the option of standing at your desk without replacing the whole desk.
The lower tier, where most users will be placing their mouse and keyboard, can feel a little unsettling sometimes, as placing anything more than a mild amount of pressure will cause the whole desk to tip forward slightly.
Conversely, you have to apply quite a deliberate amount of pressure in order to have the desk lean enough to lift its rear feet from the desk.
Serial desk leaners of which I am one will be forced to use only the top tier of the desk, which provides more stable support.
As previously mentioned, the desk uses a spring assisted folding mechanism that makes it easy to raise and lower.
Using the desk in its standing position for extended periods does deliver on some of its health promises.
I found standing to be legitimately exhausting for the first few days but after an initial adjustment period, I feel I’ve adapted well to my new vertical orientation.
I’d even go so far as to say the standing desk has had a more immediately measurable impact on my health and wellbeing than fitness trackers I’ve used in the past, and I didn’t even have to give VariDesk any of my data.
The great thing about standing desks is, depending on your workplace, you can sometimes get someone else to pay for it.
At this point the value proposition becomes null and void.
Small business owners may be tempted and able to write a VariDesk off on their tax.
Let’s say business is tight and you don’t have the kind of money (again, $550) to spend on a fancy new adjustable standing desk solution like the VariDesk ProPlus 36.
In this instance you can probably get the same health benefits with a stack of phone books and a good attitude.
If you’re umming-and-aahing about whether to splash out on a desk at full-price, then you simply have to ask yourself: can you put a price on good health?
If the increasingly mandatory nature of private health insurance and the deterioration of our public health system is anything to go by, health and wellbeing is quickly becoming a luxury item.
Australians spend a large amount of our time at work, so combining this horological investment with an admittedly pseudo-scientific solution to move more can help create the kind of efficiencies productivity consultants are always chasing.
Like any other practice that’s good for your health, using a standing desk isn’t always the most fun in the world.
Having passed the initial adjustment phase I can confidently say I feel better, more productive and rewardingly exhausted from using the VariDesk ProPlus 36.
I don’t plan on running a marathon any time soon though.