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May 25 2015 The dangers of sitting: Varidesk standing desk review
The hidden dangers of sitting

If you haven’t heard the news already, it seems sitting for prolonged periods is every bit as detrimental to your health as smoking!

Apparently sitting for too long can lead to weight gain, unhealthy blood-sugar levels, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. Yikes!

As a writer, I often spend up to 10 hours a day at my desk. And whether or not I think it’s going to increase my chance of cardiovascular disease, my back and shoulders sure aren’t happy with this arrangement. In fact, if I don’t see my chiropractor every 4 weeks or so, I start twisting up into a little pretzel-shaped copywriter, knocking back pain-killers before bed so I can escape the burn of my tortured shoulders.

Not ideal.

So I thought perhaps I should do a little research into “standing” desks and see what I could find out. However, I also discovered that standing all day is fraught with its own health complications. It seems the “ideal” scenario is to alternate between sitting and standing – that not settling in one position is the key.

Apparently this wasn’t going to be as easy as stacking a few boxes and shelves to create a permanent solution.

After much research, I came across Varidesk. I liked that the spring-loaded mechanism meant you could adjust the height to suit your exact needs and, unlike some other adjustable desks, the Varidesk sat upon your existing desk, rather than needing to replace it.

With a monster desk as part of a 4-piece office suit forming my existing work space, this appealed to my sense of aesthetics.

And so I decided to bit the bullet and buy it. Here is my review… an honest appraisal; I have no affiliation with Varidesk and am getting no kickbacks

Varidesk ProPlus 48 – review

Choice:

The Varidesks come in a range of sizes and prices (starting at $325 + GST). Because I work with a dual monitor set up, I decided to go all out and buy the granddaddy of them all: the Varidesk ProPlus 48.

And, just like the Model T Ford, you can get it in any colour – as long as it’s black*.

Varidesk Pro Plus 48

Before | Seated | Standing (click to see larger image)

 

This thing is HUGE!!! Which means there’s ample space for a keyboard, mouse pad, external hard-drive, notebooks, phones, pens, coffee cups and whatever else you might need to hand.

Price:

The desk itself was $500 with delivery of $70. I also paid an additional $60 for the cushy rubber mat to stand on. All up it was $630 + GST ($693). If I can reduce my chiropractic visits from every 4 weeks to every 8 weeks, it’ll pay itself off in 2 years.

Ease of use:

Once I got it out the box – which was a bit of a workout on its own (especially if you don’t have someone to give you a hand!) – it was ready to go. There are no bits to attach or put together. Simply remove the wrapping and you’re ready to rock!

Before putting all my equipment on I gave the spring-loaded mechanism a bit of test run. It sprang up easily, but with no weight on it, was a little harder to return to the lower position (I also found the right-hand side needed a good shove to ensure it locked into position). However, with the weight of the monitors (my Toshiba all-in-one, is about 8kg) both issues were rendered redundant; the desk now shifts quickly and easily between positions.

Stability:

It does occasionally need a little jiggle to ensure both sides lock in at your preferred standing height, but this is a pretty minor thing. Once locked, it’s pretty stable. There are also some very minor shakes in the standing position if you hammer the keyboard, but I have no qualms about sitting a full cup of tea on the desk in seated OR standing position. I tend to be a fairly light typist, so 99% of the time it is rock solid.

Pros:

The space! Again, there is ample room for everything I need at hand. And, as a left-hander, I love that it naturally lends itself to having a notepad on the left. Right-handers would probably need to put a notepad on the upper deck if they also operate their mouse with their right hand, but there’s room enough for that.

I also love the extra height the upper deck gives the monitors. I always felt they were a little on the low side on my regular desk; now they are at perfect height for beautiful posture.

The rubber mat is also fantastic! If I forget to use it when I’m standing, the heels of my feet do get a little sore after a while, but the mat totally eliminates that. It’s soft, without being too spongy, so you don’t feel like you’re standing on a pillow. And it’s a decent enough size that you can move around a bit without feeling like you might step off the edge.

Finally, it comes with a handy desktop app that lets you know when you need to switch between sitting and standing. You can set the alert tones and also change the sitting/standing times. I’ve started with 1 hour of sitting and 30 minutes of standing. I’m just about to change this to 50 minutes of sitting and 40 minutes of standing.

Varidesk alert

It also tells you how many calories you’ve burned while standing up for a little extra incentive.

Cons:

Aside from some of the very minor things already mentioned, the only thing that has proved a bit of an “issue” so far is the inward curve on the front of the desk.

Not a problem at all in the standing position, as you can sidle right up and keep your elbows at your side for excellent posture.

However, when the desk is lowered into the seated position, this curve leaves a gap at the front which your hands sort of fall in to. This means you have to push the keyboard back further and extend your arms which isn’t as good for your shoulders.

I thought I could get around this by moving the whole unit forward a little so the inside edge of the curve was flush with the edge of my desk, but because my chair arms aren’t adjustable they don’t fit under it, so it didn’t really help.

If you’re using a chair without arms, or arms low enough to slide beneath your desk, this shouldn’t be a problem. (And the fact my chair has always been a bit further back than ideal is probably a good part of the reason I’m seeing the chiro so often.)

The final word

I’ve been using my standing desk for 3 weeks now and really enjoying it.

Because I was WAAAAAAY overdue for an adjustment for the first 2 weeks, I can’t comment on whether I’ve been experiencing less shoulder pain just yet… and since my adjustment on Tuesday, have not yet been back to see if it’s made any discernable difference there.

I give the Varidesk ProPlus 48 a solid 9/10.

PS – with tax time around the corner, I decided to bite the bullet and replace my chair with something without arms. As suspected, it completely resolved the previous issue I had.

* Varidesk have since released their desks in white as well.

 

Posted in Sundry, Tools, Uncategorized by 9 comments

9 Responses to “The dangers of sitting: Varidesk standing desk review”

  • Reply Kate Toon May 25, 2015at 6:01 pm

    Great post. I’ve been thinking about getting on too. But god damn they so ugggggly.

    Why don’t they have a nice brushed chrome version?
    Can I ask do you find yourself able to concentrate as well when standing?

    And do you really burn more calories just from standing up?

  • Reply Anna Butler May 27, 2015at 9:54 am

    I’m pretty sure if they had a pretty brushed chrome version, you’d be paying closer to $5k than $500! Perhaps you could do an extreme makeover with a can of silver paint?

    I’m also trying to use sitting time for writing and standing time for emails, social media, etc., but that said, I’ve been able to write plenty standing up without any adverse effects.

    And yes, apparently you burn more calories standing. Not HUGE amounts more… but it all helps, right?!

  • Reply Sid Scheck July 02, 2015at 8:08 am

    Nice review I had the plus for a short time and had to return it when I lost my job shortly after I got it. I had the same issue with the desk as far as sitting goes. Have your adjusted to make it work. Any thought of just the pro only vs. the plus?

    Thanks.

    • Reply Anna Butler July 02, 2015at 9:55 am

      Hi Sid – sorry to hear about your job.

      As far as the issue I had sitting, I bought a new chair without arms and that has done the trick.

      Meanwhile, without having seen the Plus, it would be hard for me to make any sort of comparison. I think for me it would be a little too cramped – I love that the Pro gives me so much room to spread out while I’m standing, but then I’m also keeping an A4 notebook, 2 phones, and 2 large monitors on my desk.

      If I had a smaller notebook, and put one of my phones under a monitor the Plus would probably work out just fine. Guess I’m just a desk hog 🙂

  • Reply Stephen York July 30, 2015at 9:13 am

    I just got one at work and looking forward to the results.
    My issue has been the tendancy to slump forward and rest on my elbows, which are now extremely sore which I also understand is a sign of carpal tunnel, etc. The thumb joint in my hands as well as forearms have been in a lot of pain.

    I did a lesson on the Taubman piano playing technique as well which talks about supporting the forearms and hands by really only pivoting from the shoulder. This protects the wrists from sideways twisting and other strains. By standing at this Varidesk I’m already seeing that the natural tendency is to not lean and the arms to be in a more natural supported position as Dorothy Taubman taught.

    With the Varidesk extend as high as it can go I’m finding I need to also extend the monitor all the way up its stand so I’m not looking down at all straining my neck. I’m 5’11”, so if you are taller you might need to still prop your monitor up on a book.

    Will be interesting to see over the coming months if this pain in my arms goes away (combined with regular remedial massage). At any rate, I’ll be buying one for home as the concept is really sound.

  • Reply Mark Schneider December 04, 2015at 4:43 pm

    Awhile back I went one step beyond a standing desk (quite literally!) and set up a walking desk.

    Now these are available to buy off the shelf, but they’re not cheap. Being a cheapskate with a bit of a passion for DIY solutions I built my own using a second hand treadmill which I attached a sheet of melamine to with some cable ties. The whole job took me about 10 minutes, and while the effect is hardly the height of design or aesthetics it sure works.

    Typing and walking proved quite a challenge, so I started using Dragon’s dictation software, which works well enough as long as you don’t use the Mac version, which is a dog of a thing.

    The trick with a walking desk is not to get too ambitious – treat it as a gently stroll, not a work out and you’ll cover a surprising number of kilometres in the course of your working day. Can’t be a bad thing.

    • Reply Anna Butler February 11, 2016at 11:14 am

      I’d heard of the walking desks, and that they recommend only going 1-2 km p/h (as you say, it’s not a workout).

      I do have a treadmill, but it’s not really one I could set up as a desk… besides which, it’s not working at the moment, which doesn’t help..!

  • Reply Alaa November 14, 2016at 7:52 am

    Hey Anna,
    Do you still have/use the Varidesk? It would be interesting to know if you have any comments after using it for several months now.
    That gear is expensive but seems to be essential for any long-term desk worker.

    • Reply Anna Butler December 02, 2016at 10:50 am

      I do still use my desk, but I’ve had a couple of other issues this year which have caused me some back problems, so hard to judge the effectiveness of the desk on its own. I’m hoping those issues have been resolved now so I can make a better long-term assessment.

      I also found myself “tuning out” the alarm to sit/stand (clearly engrossed in my work!), and have recently changed the tone to something more attention-grabbing to ensure I don’t sit/stand through it.

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