TOYou are sitting? Not because he’s about to say something shocking. Sorry, I shouldn’t scare you. I bet you’re sitting down. Me too. Because sitting is what we mainly do, right? Sitting is pleasant, a simple and lasting pleasure, unless an illness or disability forces you to do so. It’s a shame, because he’s also killing me, you, and everyone else.
You probably know it. The “sitting is worse than smoking” message started around 2010. It’s no worse than smoking. – duh – but it is “associated with increased mortality from all causes”. “People who spent more than 12 hours a day sitting had a higher risk of (premature) death.” according to one of the authors from the most recent and widely publicized research on sitting and how to counteract its harmful effects, which analyzed data from four large-scale studies.
Of all the grim public health revelations of recent decades, this one affected me the most: worse than anything it says insomnia is killing you, although it’s fun to have that running through your head at 4 in the morning. I hate it because it seems almost impossible to do anything about it. I sit for more than 12 hours almost every day. That recent article suggested that 22 minutes of “moderate to vigorous physical activity” a day can eliminate the highest risk of premature death, but do you know how far behind I am on everything?
Who has 22 minutes free? (Admittedly, it’s a fraction of the time I spend staring at walls, but that’s my “process.”) My daily health walks are too short and slow, and even more modest improvements seem challenging: there’s no “ walk” through the west wing. with me” when you work alone from a small home office. And before anyone suggests a standing desk, experience shows that, like a tray table, I’m not functional in an upright position.
So I’m stuck sitting. But honestly, I really enjoy it. It’s my main leisure activity (I even sit down to brush my teeth), so I’ve found myself feeling unusually mutinous. I’m usually obedient to health dictates: I eat green things and use those little interdental brushes. But this? Get lost.
I could easily become the David Hockney of sitting, denouncing nanny status, sitting defiantly in a room full of chairs, ignoring the graphic visual warnings of amputations and swollen hearts that will soon be printed on the cushions. Maybe then she would exile me to a country where sitting is still respected (maybe maltwhich topped a list of sedentary places in 2012)?
It feels unfair to die early for doing my job (okay, and watching MasterChef), but there’s a kind of natural justice here. Labor has been killing people in physical jobs for centuries: miners, farmers, container workers and builders. Now, workers in logistics centers, that modern form of hard work, have been found to suffer from musculoskeletal problems and are prone to injury. A report from the Center for Strategic Organizing, a coalition of North American unions, found that Amazon workers in the US suffered 39,000 injured in 2022.
Standing for a long time It’s not much better than sitting: Nurses and retail workers suffer from back pain and cardiovascular and circulatory problems. I suppose it’s only fair that those of us who work more comfortably aren’t spared. But it also contributes to my growing suspicion that work – all work – is bad for us. No one seems to have found a viable alternative. I would suggest a global sit-in, but you know.
If I could guarantee a peaceful, uneventful, marginally premature death on my couch, in the middle of a multi-episode documentary about a celebrity I don’t care about, I’d go full Hockney. But the reality is that I will probably get sick, angry, and become a tremendous burden; I am already most of those things. I’m also hurting more and more: sciatica, shooting pain in my shoulder, all that.
So, with a heavy (and no doubt unhealthy) heart, I installed an emotionally manipulative app on my phone that regularly begs me to stand up and tells me, “We want you to live longer.” (Creepy, you don’t even know me.) So far, the only “movement break” that doesn’t make me lose the will to live (counterproductive!) is reaching for snacks, but small steps, small reluctant steps.