Everyone’s heard it by now: sitting is the new smoking. Folks used to assume you could balance out all those hours hunched in front of a desk and sprawled out on the sofa by just working up a good sweat now and then in some wholesome physical activity, but in the last few years, public health experts have been trying to shake us out of our wrongheaded complacency. Sprinkling a few exercise sessions into our overwhelmingly sedentary modern lives doesn’t cut it, just like it’s not enough for a heavy smoker to take up jogging and yoga. Just like smokers need to toss out the cancer sticks, we all need to seriously cut down on the time we spend sitting around on our increasingly ponderous posteriors.
While the public is becoming more aware of the dangers of excessive sitting, sitting occupies a central place in our modern culture, so it will take a profound cultural shift before many of us change our individual habits. But the shift is underway, and before long, the majority of the population will take to heart the health hazards of sitting, just as most of us do with smoking today. Soon, we will shake our heads in disbelief when we remember a time when an average day meant hour upon hour seated and stationary, punctuated by a scant few minutes of motion — far too few to satisfy our animal bodies’ needs to run and leap and stretch. Those of us who have managed to kick the vice will chuckle to ourselves when we see someone who is still struggling with sitting. Slaves to their cravings, jittery and irritable when they haven’t had a chance to sit in the last hour or so, they’ll be forced outside to sit, even on bitterly cold winter days, at least 9 metres from an entrance (depending on the jurisdiction). Only when their gluteal region contacts a supporting surface will they finally feel the rush of endorphins coursing through their veins for a few precious, pathetic moments. We’ll remember a time when people sat in restaurants and on airplanes, and even doctors and priests used to sit, and soldiers were given a daily ration of sitting, and it was all considered so normal that nobody blinked an eye. But all the same, our relationship with sitting will be complex. No one will be able to deny that despite all the chilling, graphic health warnings plastered all over every chair and sofa at the furniture store, there will always be something about sitting that’s just goddamn cool. The alluring model on the billboard, lounging on the settee in that impossibly glamorous way, the action hero, astraddle his motorcycle in his macho way — they’ll still be cool. Tight restrictions on the sale of divans and the replacement of motorcycles with Segways will only succeed in making sitting even cooler. The badass teens outside in the sitting pit, or sneaking in a quick sit in the bathroom, or strutting down the hallway with a chair rolled up in their t-shirt sleeve — they’ll know this better than anyone.