Having a bad back seems to go with the territory for frequent travellers. We may well have a favourite chair at home and have invested in a decent bed, but the variety of seats, chairs and beds we find ourselves in when travelling varies widely, and it only takes a poor night’s sleep in a bed like a hammock, or an overnight flight in economy to create or exacerbate the problem.
If you suffer from a bad back, then it can be quite annoying when people suggest remedies, not least since you’ve tried them already. In the past 20 years I have tried yoga, pilates, pain killers and meditation, sometimes all in the same day. Still, for me, sitting down for most of the day contributes to the problem, and yet it’s tough to avoid. First world problem, I know, but when I’m not travelling, I have a desk job which is mostly sitting down, and when travelling I am also mostly sitting down.
While sitting at my desk recently I read research suggesting that sitting down all day doesn’t just cause back problems – it kills you. The University of Cambridge recently did a study which found that you are 60 percent more likely to die early if you have an office job. I find this suspect. More likely to die than doing what other jobs? Mining? Deep sea fishing? Bomb disposal? Still, we’ve all had a moment at our desk when we think “This job is killing me”, and now it’s been confirmed. It really is.
So what’s the solution? Well, standing desks might be one. As the name suggest, the Varidesk “varies” in that it goes up and down, so you can sit part of the day, and stand the rest. There are lots of different models, from desk risers (a stand for your computer that sits on your desk), to those that can work on top of a treadmill.
The one I tried was the Pro Plus 36 (pictured), a mid-size two tier desk which sat on top of my existing desk and had a surface for the keyboard and another higher tier for the computer monitor (in the picture she has two, a laptop and a monitor, but that’s just showing off). On this higher tier I put my laptop, while the keyboard and mouse (both Bluetooth) were on the lower one.
The Varidesk was very sturdy – and heavy. It took less than a minute to set up – you just get it out of the box and try not to drop it on your foot. I nearly put my back out lifting it onto the desk. It is also very adjustable – you can have it at different heights or all the way down for when you are sitting.
Varidesk says that using a standing desk can help decrease neck and lower back pain, lower blood pressure and help prevent heart disease, and it has the research to back it up, all independently conducted. Obviously, I can’t judge whether those claims are true, and even if they worked for me, it might be a placebo effect. Nevertheless, I’ve found that using the desk on its higher settings and standing for around half the day has certainly lessened the back pain I have by the end of the day, and also meant I have a tendency to talk more to those around me. This is not necessarily an advantage for any of us.
Standing desks come in all shapes, sizes and prices. I know Ikea do one, for instance. This one is towards the top end of the range (and Varidesk has less expensive ones), but to be honest, if it saves only a few trips to the osteopath / physiotherapist / shaman it’s probably worth it.
Price: £335 (inc. VAT)