Sitting is the New Smoking…Or is It?

Before and after of sitting desk

We’ve all read the headlines that sitting is the new smoking, and scoliotics (anyone with back pain, really) know the unique challenges that come with sitting for too long (which is why I’m trying to write shorter blog entries).

However, as someone who works via telecommute for her full-time job, on top of attempting to write regularly for this blog, I know that sitting in front of a computer comes with the territory.

But I wondered: Is there a healthier way to do this? After reading Katy Bowman’s book, “Don’t Just Sit There: Transitioning to a Standing and Dynamic Work Station for Whole Body Health,” I realized I could do something about the way I sit.

Bowman recommends desks (“dynamic work stations”) that allow for more varied movement while working. Think about it: A traditional desk keeps you still for 6-8+ hours a day, elbows at 90 degrees, neck frozen in place to keep you looking straight ahead, hips and knees locked at 90 degree angles in your chair, your feet entrapped inside constricting shoes, wrists resting (immobile) on a hard desk, with the only movement going on for hours at a time is your fingertips, tapping furiously at a keyboard.

With so little movement throughout our day, is it any wonder that our muscles get sore and atrophy over time?

Bowman’s own “dynamic work station” allows for some great, varied movement—you can see a video below of her using it at work. It’s important to note that Bowman is a prolific writer who, at the time of this writing, has authored six books, so she is no stranger to the demands of a desk job.

Unfortunately for me, I do not have a laptop—that’s an expense I’m working toward being able to afford, because it would open up so many more movement opportunities during my work day—so for now, I realized the best I can do is “dynamic-ize” (there’s got to be a real verb for that) my sitting. Enter my “floor sitting desk” project!


A Humble Little Table Gets a Makeover

Before and after of sitting desk

After scouring Craigslist for weeks to find a simple table with wooden legs I could chop down so I could comfortably sit on the ground and type on my keyboard, one morning my husband and I walked out to our car, and I noticed a simple table sitting out on the curbside, and I basically lost it in excitement. My poor, beloved, patient husband watched me freak out over a table, and then sweetly helped me carry it inside while I gushed about all the weird, holistic, “natural movement-y” things I planned to do with it.

This man is a saint, y’all :).

The Project Begins

First, I measured how short the legs would have to be cut down. I wanted to make sure that my wrists could rest at a 90 degree angle while I typed at my keyboard, and I also wanted to ensure that I could stretch out my legs and feet comfortably underneath the table. For me, that measurement came out to just over 9.5″.

Then, I rented a miter saw from Home Depot and used it there in the parking lot to cut down the legs. (And ultimately, the guy working there didn’t charge me anything, since it was such a small, easy project. Thank you, Home Depot guy!)

Since the legs were really gross, I covered the legs in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White, which I had left over from a previous project.

Table legs: Before (top) and after (bottom).

Table legs: Before (top) and after (bottom).

Next came the really fun part. I knew I wanted to refinish the tabletop, but I’ve never refinished anything before, and I was also loathe to spend too much money on stain. I looked up DIY recipes for stain, and discovered a really cool way to make a cheap, non-toxic stain out of black tea, apple cider vinegar, and steel wool. You can find that recipe here.

Step 1: Sanding

It’s important to note here how important an even sanding job will be for your end look. Since I’ve never sanded or stained anything before, I really wasn’t careful enough about doing an even sanding job, so the end result of my table is really uneven, as you will see. Though personally, I wound up liking the end look—it’s full of character :).

Table, before sanding.

Table, before sanding.

Table, after sanding.

Table, after sanding.

Step 2: Making the Stain

Again, you can find the recipe to make this same stain here (but do note that I hit my tabletop with TWO coats of black tea, and results may vary, anyway).

From top, L-R: Making the black tea, adding the steel wool to the ACV, then applying the "stain" with a sponge.

From top, L-R: Making the black tea, adding the steel wool to the ACV, then applying the non-toxic “stain” with a sponge.

After allow the stain to dry and fully soak in for about a week, then reattaching the legs, this was the end result:

Looks a bit like a cow, doesn't it? :)

Looks a bit like a cow, doesn’t it?

I wasn’t quite finished yet, however!

Step 3: Applying the Sealant

Again, I wanted to use something nontoxic, so I found this cheap, super-easy recipe for a olive oil + beeswax sealant from Everyday Roots.

Making the beeswax sealant.

Making the beeswax sealant.

After applying the sealant, I allowed it to soak in for about 30 minutes, then wiped down the tabletop numerous times with a dry cloth, until it no longer felt “oily.” I didn’t want to worry if oils would seep through any paper I put on my desk!

The sealant made a HUGE difference in the colors, don’t you think?

After adding the non-toxic beeswax sealant.

After adding the non-toxic beeswax sealant.

Step 4: Final Look and Setup

Finally, I was ready to move my new “ground sitting desk” into my office and get set up!

My new ground sitting desk.

My new ground sitting desk!

I LOVE my new desk! I’ve noticed an improvement on my back health, I think largely because my tailbone isn’t tucked under me all day. I also don’t feel as fatigued by the end of the day, although certainly at first my muscles have been slightly sore, since I’m calling on my core muscles to support me and keep me upright—muscles that have, until this point, offloaded their responsibilities of keeping me upright to my high-backed chair ;).

Desk legs and pretty stain.

Another angle of the paint and stain job on my desk.

Working from my desk.

What it looks like to work from my desk. You can see that my legs are able to comfortably fit underneath :).

My view from my desk.

The view from down here is pretty great, too!

On top of Bowman’s book, Pete Egoscue has also written a book titled, “Pain-Free at Your PC,” which I’ve heard is fantastic, but have yet to buy (I’m still working through “Pain-Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain” and “The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion,” both of which I can heartily recommend).

I’ve got several other projects like this I’m planning, so stay tuned for future updates! And if you have any questions about this new project, feel free to leave me a comment below. I love hearing from you!

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