“Sitting is the new smoking” is the latest mantra being chanted by health professionals, fitness magazine writers and exercise enthusiasts. Like the Ten Thousand Steps enthusiasm of a few years back it is meant to encourage people to get active.
The guiding principle is straightforward: For optimum health people should be moving more and sitting less. Standing up rather than sitting on one’s duff is a suggestion that also comes with advice to avoid junk food and sugar, limit calorie intake, exercise regularly and, yes, forego smoking. It is one more useful item in the take-charge-of-your-health toolbox.
The benefits of attending to one’s physical health are well-known: more energy, more strength and endurance, a better sense of self, lower health costs and an all-around better quality of life. The value of a healthy life-style is well-established by science, and, clearly, science is convinced of the negative effects of too much sitting down. One wonders how long it will be before the government gets involved?
My guess is the lethal dangers of sitting are already on the radar of officials concerned with Americans’ health and lifestyle choices. It is likely the United States Department of Departments and Bureaus is sketching plans to create an agency to monitor the frequency of sitting. Administrators are developing guidelines for this latest health crisis, and various carrots and sticks are being devised to help Americans stand up and get healthy. A good working name for the campaign could be something along the lines of “The War on Chairs” or maybe “The Siege on Sitting.”
One early foray in this war will come from the government itself. Federal and state offices will institute a no-sitting policy for all civil servants (with a disabilities exclusion, of course). Civilians who enter government buildings will be alerted by prominently displayed posters and signs to the dangers of sitting and encouraged to “Take a stand by taking a stand.” Public service announcements will become as familiar as reminders to buckle your seatbelt.
The culture will slowly change as businesses will be urged and eventually required to post signs warning people that no sitting is allowed within 10 feet of their entrances. Minors under the age of 18 might be required to show ID before purchasing chairs, stools, sofas, divans, settees, daybeds and/or chesterfields. All such furniture will have warning labels prominently displayed.
These stricter rules and regulations will create unintended consequences as a black market in folding chairs, camp stools and other easily concealed furniture will develop. Office workers who can’t kick the sitting habit will gather on the sidewalks — outside the 10-feet zone, of course — and sit on whatever they can find. Entrepreneurial street vendors might mosey by a weary worker and in a conspiratorial voice ask, “Can I get you a seat?”
These regulatory efforts will continue for as long as it is necessary to convince citizens that not moving is not good. After a few years of intense media saturation the shame of being a “secret sitter” will begin to trickle into the general consciousness. At this point, health-shamers and PC culture police on social media will search for evidence on people who are or were in their past brazen couch potatoes. These people will pay the price of public vilification.
A few pockets of resistance will no doubt develop. Speakeasy-like joints (sit-easy joints?) will be tucked away in back alleys for those who long for a respite from constantly standing. Lobbyists for “big sofa” will counter the attacks by promoting “Chillin’ in a Chair” and offering scientific evidence that suggests sitting in moderation can in fact be healthy.
As things tend to go these days, sitting vs standing will probably develop into another anger-fueled culture war skirmish. Whew. It makes me tired. I think I’ll take a break, find a chair and take a load off.