Friday, August 7, 2015

The Art of Sitting

I've been in enough houses that I can attest to the universality of not only "The Chair" but "The Counter", "The Coffee Table" and "The Various Pieces of Exercise Equipment." 


This post begins with a tale of two chairs. My grandmother had an old ice cream parlor stool. The construction looked suitable for an upper weight limit of 80 pounds.


Yesterday I went to a burger chain and noticed that the wood chairs were actually metal painted to look like wood.  I appreciate the forward thinking on the part of the burger management. I have yet to lower my posterior in a chair and have it crumble beneath me but I am well aware of the potential. 

“My idea of exercise is a good brisk sit.” – Phyllis Diller
So what happened between 1915 and 2015 to change the public seating accommodation?

One theory is the industrialized production of chairs was a primary contributor.  Ironic isn’t it?

The American Cancer Society wrapped up a fourteen-year longitudinal study of 120,000 participants and discovered that sitting for extended periods during the day dramatically increased participants’ risk of death.

Americans average 9.3 hours of sitting a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping. Sitting is so prevalent . . . it doesn't even occur to us that it's not ok. In that way, I've come to see that sitting is the smoking of our generation.

Women who sat for six or more hours daily faced a 37% greater risk of death as compared to those who sat for three hours or less.

For men, the increased risk of death for those who sat at least six hours daily was 17%.

Those who did not exercise regularly and also sat for long periods faced even greater mortality rates – a startling 94% higher for women and 48% higher for men.

Well evidently I should already be dead. 

Before chairs were cheap and abundant, the wealthy enjoyed leisurely sitting while everyone else stood in admiration or engaged in non-sitting activities. 

If peasant sitting was required, a non-chair choice; barrel, trunk or floor was the option.

Not only did the Industrial Revolution make chairs available for home use, it moved the workforce from active to stationary. Child labor laws increased school enrollment and kids spent hours engaged in the adult activity of sitting quietly.  Western kids, compared to other groups, lose flexibility and strength leading to more bad news.

The European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention  published a study where adults ranging from age 51 to 80, were asked to "try to sit and then to rise from the floor, using the minimum support that you believe is needed." 

The subjects were tracked from the date of the baseline test in 2002 until their death or October 2011. At the end of the study period, participants who needed additional support to get up from the floor were overwhelmingly more likely to die, across age, gender, or body mass index.

I guess my days are limited. I am proficient at sitting and not so much at standing. 

However, there may be more hope for my kid. I came downstairs to find her studying at the kitchen table. "At" may be the wrong term. Her text book was open and she was standing on the seat of a kitchen chair, leaning down and reading world history. 

For all I know, she may have been reading about the detrimental consequences of manipulating our environment to circumvent evolutionary behavior. 

If you read at an average speed, you should get up right now and walk around.

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