Stop Telling Me Not to Sit

458709_NINATUFTEDCHAIRFUSCHIA_3/4FRONTStudy after study and article after article (after article after article ad infinitum) tells us the dangers of being sedentary. Death is lurking around the corner of every office chair. We know this. Everyone even remotely interested in health and fitness know this at this point. Anyone who accidentally spent two minutes on Facebook in the past year knows this.

     What we don’t know is what to do about it. Because the fact is there are structures in place that keep certain people desk-bound and run others ragged off their feet. Those people in white collar jobs don’t actually have much say about the amount of time they spend sitting. Corporate culture dictates spending 8+ hours sitting at your desk, working on a computer. I work in the anti-violence movement (that is to say, far from corporate culture) and I still spend the vast majority of my day sitting, either at a desk on the computer or in session with clients.

     So being told, over and over, that sitting is going to kill me isn’t actually helpful. I know that sitting all day isn’t very good for me. I incorporate as much walking and movement as I can into my day. But the reality is that the expectations of my job involve a lot of sitting. So article after article after article framing sitting as the number one menace is nothing more than click bait-y fear mongering if there are no concrete systemic solutions presented.
     When you think about what a lot of white collar jobs look like, they certainly don’t need to be 8 (or 10 or 12) hour days, and, well, a lot of them could just not exist at all. Think about how many jobs involve trading imaginary money for imaginary stocks. Think about how many bureaucratic positions universities and corporations have, many of which seem to have as their prime directive the justification of their own positions. Think about how many jobs exist simply to keep the capitalism machine running, rather than adding actual value to society and meaning to individual lives. The problem with corporate culture goes far beyond death-sitting.
     Of course, if we take a step back, we can see a more troubling aspect to this obsession with deadly sitting: it excludes huge swaths of people working physically demanding low-pay jobs and is hugely ableist.
     There are many people who are, for a variety of reasons, reliant on wheelchairs or other mobility aids or who spend much of their time lying down or sitting due to chronic pain and/or disability. I can’t imagine seeing article after article decrying the dangers of sitting all day is all that helpful for a wheelchair user.
     And then there are the very many people who spend upwards of eight hours a day on their feet. These are the fast-food and retail workers who make minimum wage, who work through illness because sick days don’t exist for low-wage workers, who juggle two or more jobs at a time because, despite working full time, they still make less than a living wage.
     These folks are standing all day! Every day! So they should be set, right? No need for a treadmill desk when you stand at a fryer or an espresso machine all day! Fit as a fiddle, right?
     Well…not exactly. If you compare the sedentary office sitters to the constantly standing and walking factory, retail, and fast food workers, you’ll find, on a population level, that office sitters have significantly better health, despite their daily dance with death in the form of an office chair. Why? Because poverty is far more detrimental to almost every health measure than sitting at a desk all day.
     So, please, stop telling me not to sit. Instead, tell me how we can provide a living wage to everyone, regardless of the type of work that they do. Tell me how we can follow The Netherlands’ lead and work a four day work week while retaining benefits so we can have a better work-life balance. Tell me how we can shift from a car-culture to more sustainable options that give people who are able the chance to bike or walk to work. Tell me how we can shift from a consumer-driven culture to a community-driven culture. Tell me anything but the dangers of sitting.
My apologies, WordPress has apparently decided to do away with paragraph breaks for this post only so the formatting is not especially readable.

5 thoughts on “Stop Telling Me Not to Sit

  1. Love this article. I am irritated by that same rhetoric and think about a lot of the things that you’ve said. Thanks for writing this and including an acknowledgment of the chronically ill and the minimum wage workers.

  2. This article (and all of your articles) are fabulous – I’m SO glad I stumbled across your blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a fellow Canadian woman working in academia I just wish I knew who you were! 🙂

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