In 2014, people sitting in front of computers worried that sitting was bad for people sitting in front of computers. Sitting didn’t care if you got your 30 minutes of exercise every day. Sitting was the new killer. Sitting was the new smoking.
People writing for people sitting in front of television cameras probably wondered whether sitting was bad for people writing for people sitting in front of television cameras.
And television viewers who confuse television with medical advice must have found the news hard to take sitting down, though scientists studying the effects of sitting were probably sitting down when they wrote this:
Could something as ordinary as sitting in chairs be plausibly grouped among other major health hazards? Are exercise scientists, medical professionals, and public policy-makers moving quickly enough on the basis of available evidence in making official recommendations on limiting sitting time?…We would suggest that, in the future, too much sitting might be considered in the same way as have other such insidious environmental and behavioral health hazards.
–Hamilton, Marc T. et al. “Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting: Inactivity Physiology and the Need for New Recommendations on Sedentary Behavior.” Current cardiovascular risk reports 2.4 (2008): 292–298. PMC. Web. 26 Dec. 2014.
Now we could probably use a few insights from the world of inactivity physiology–just as inactivity physiologists probably believe they could use an increase in funding. What’s more, they may be worth it.
Consider this: During the past year, inactivity researchers, supported by a generous dose of media-induced fear, most likely strengthened the standing desk industry more than Churchill, Hemingway and Jefferson combined. Indeed, I may build a standing desk and recommend you do the same.
But while the standing desk may save you and me, it won’t save civilization because civilization is based on sitting.
One can sit today because wolves are held at bay, fields of grain don’t run away like wild animals, and chess is not a physical pursuit. Aside from its connections to the television and automobile, sitting is a noble activity, a communal activity, a necessary activity.
Do we need to move around more? Certainly. Do we need to ignore our flexible knee joints and stand all the time? Certainly not.
I suggest we meet researchers halfway: by sitting on bicycles and rebuilding a culture and infrastructure that support sitting on bicycles. As much as some of us admire the persistence of standing cyclist Dean Mathias, we don’t need to promote standing.
We need to focus on quality sitting that extends human capability.
For example, if you want to read a book in a civilized manner, sitting allows you to focus your energies on comprehension. If you want to nurse a beer–or celebrate Cabernet Day–while reading a book, sitting eliminates much of the need to balance. If you want to play a cello while nursing a beverage while reading a book, sitting is downright mandatory.
And if you ridicule that last example, I say I will not use a bicycle website to denigrate the chosen instrument of Pablo Casals and Yo-Yo Ma.
In fact, I won’t stand for it.