Did you know that remaining for too long in one position might make you die prematurely of almost every possible disease?
A 2018 study published by the American Cancer Society reported a correlation between “long periods of leisure time sitting and a higher risk of death from all causes.”
Sit down and your time is up.
“Take a load off,” I remember my uncles saying as they pulled out a seat so that a guy they worked with could rest his tired dogs. “Make yourself comfortable,” my aunts would say when inviting someone for coffee.
It would have baffled and insulted them if the reply was “I’d prefer not to, for health reasons.”
Sitting was once considered a sign of hospitality and trust. It was also a sign of luxury. Landing an office job was a triumph because it meant you weren’t on your feet eight hours a day.
A desk job was a big deal. The higher you rose in the company, the less you moved from behind that desk.
Stability — staying in one place — was a literal and figurative measure of success.
If you needed something, you pushed a button. Real bosses even had their own private restrooms so that they didn’t have to go far to go.
Now, real bosses are meant to be cartwheeling down the hallways like acrobats because they shouldn’t sit.
They’re using not only stand-up desks but “walking desks,” which are basically treadmills topped by a slab of wood where you’ll find a laptop and cellphone.
Walking to work takes on a whole new meaning. If you see a group of walking desks in a row, it looks like a post-apocalyptic horror movie scene where human workers are attached to devices created by their robot masters.
But the funniest thing I’ve ever seen was when I went to pick up a friend from work at her new and unnervingly hip workplace.
Instead of a desk, she was assigned a large, heavy-duty rubber ball upon which she uneasily rolled (or balanced) while holding a supposedly ergonomic tray containing the devices she needed to do her job.
I walked in, saw her and laughed so hard she fell off her ball.
Meanwhile, because there was no place to sit and I was laughing too hard to keep standing, I slid down the wall. The two of us sat like toddlers on her carpet until we could resume our upright, evolved-adult-human positions.
I believe businesses will soon be conducting meetings on trampolines. Conference rooms will look like rehearsal spaces for Cirque du Soleil. There will be swings bolted into the ceiling. All of this will be done to help people avoid the physical debilitation brought on by the wanton use of settees.
In public transportation? The elderly and frail will be forced to stand, with special seats at the front marked, “Reserved only for the fit and definitely not for use by those who need core strengthening.”
Maybe what we really need is balance.
A recent article in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s delightfully titled Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said that in 2016, 29,668 U.S. residents age 65 or older died from falls, which is significantly higher than the numbers from 2007, when 18,334 deaths were reported. Maybe this whole standing up, sitting down and standing up again routine isn’t working out so hot for some of us.
Add to this number all the folks who will die in their sleep. Does this mean that nobody should now be going to bed, because that is also dangerous? Can you imagine what it would look like; a nation of people who never sat down, wandered around and never went to bed?
That’s what America is beginning to look like.
Even worse, we’re beginning to think that way, which is to say we’re not making cogent, responsible, educated and clearly focused decisions.
When do we need to take a stand? When we’re defending the best of our beliefs. To give more meaning to our years, our lives as citizens and our place in the world, we can’t just sit on our hands. Sometimes you need to stand not only yourself, but for those around you.
Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and the author of “If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?” and eight other books. She can be reached at www.ginabarreca.com.