“Sitting,” according to Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, “is the new smoking. Sitting is literally bad for you.”
It’s a hyperbolic line. It’s also a decent comparison. Sitting for long periods leads to increased risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It doesn’t matter if you run a marathon every morning, the time you spend in an office chair at work is harmful to your health.
In response, there is a burgeoning movement to work at standing desks. Standing for hours is hard work and mitigates the problems of sitting all day. Some people even kick things up a notch by creating a workstation above a treadmill so that they can walk while they work.
But as standing desks gain popularity, the most important desk-bound population has been mostly ignored: children.
That’s too bad, because it is an obvious win. Stuck in their habits, most adults shrug off standing desks despite the dire health warnings.
Children, on the other hand, never wanted to be sitting in the first place. They take to it naturally. A pilot study in one elementary school installed standing desks with stools. They did not instruct the students whether to sit or stand. What happened? “After six weeks, 70 percent of the students never used their stools to sit and the other 30 percent stood the majority of the time they were at their desks.” And it’s hard to imagine students that used standing desks at school every day for over a decade accepting normal desks when they get to a workplace.
Besides, if sitting is the new smoking, then shouldn’t we stop forcing every child to smoke all day?