Our parents, teachers and leaders admonish us to stand for something. We are supposed to be vertical for our values, our flag and our school fight song. Politicians tell us every couple of years what they stand for — a grand vision for America, a noble cause — and they stand against the invading horde of the enemy, the other party.
Now scientists are saying to stand for health. Sitting is killing us. Standing was invented before sitting. Ask anyone who was there. With the world’s population more sedentary, a simple solution is for anyone to stand. It also helps as the world’s 7 billion people crowd into one spot. If we all stand, we can pack closer together.
The office place is in a standing revolution. More people are discovering the advantages to putting the weight on the feet and not on the seat. Some will say that the revolution is only a reaction to reality. With bigger hips, a growing — and I mean growing — segment of society can’t fit into the traditional chair. Airplane seats are not traditional, making them even worse. Ryanair, the European discount airline, has even proposed that passengers stand to increase carrying capacity — which would enhance the feeling of being herded like chattel.
The advantage to standing is more than conservation of space. It is healthier. An article on the subject in Time magazine said that anywhere between 300 and 1000 calories per day can be used by standing over sitting. That is a lot of Snickers.
To meet the growing demand, furniture builders and concrete block makers are promoting the finest solution. Tables and desks at the new library at the Children’s Hospital move up and down with a slight touch of a button. For those on a budget, cinder blocks can be stacked on top of each other. Legos could serve the same purpose.
With the world hurting more and more from back or neck pain, standing is a treatment. If for no other reason, the feet will hurt more and distract the sufferer from the back and neck.
Standing is healthier than sitting because it is easier to get up and walk away from one's work to stretch and look out the window. Operating in spurts of time is more productive than the sit-until-you-die-or-burst approach.
Being able to get going without having to get up makes the mental and physical breaks easier. Some adventurers have even gone so far as putting treadmills under their desks so they can walk while at work.
Ergonomics is the science of movement and position. The folks in this field measure pressures, angles and strain of different common work habits. They know about repeated use syndromes and that sort of thing.
They have figured that sitting inflicts 2.5 times more pressure on a person's spinal discs than standing. Who would have thought that sitting, which we call resting, is more work for our backs?
Falling asleep in important meetings is not impossible but is a touch more difficult if you stand rather than sit. Sleeping while sitting produces head bobbing and drooling and increases the probability of louder snoring. Sleeping while standing has fewer risks, but falling to the floor is more distracting.
Standing is healthier because it forces us to focus and balance. It is a prototype of life. A person should be balanced and focused. Being seated in front of the TV or computer monitor shifts the balance toward boring. Standing is better for throwing a ball to your kids, watching them in their soccer games and lording over the 16-year-old pimple-faced kid who wants to take your daughter to the prom.
Standing in the back makes a performer think you are ready to give a standing ovation or that you are getting ready to leave. Standing is more patriotic.
To live longer, stand. Be proud. Stand for something. Stand for you.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician, fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing physician for 30 years and a hospitalist at Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org