How long have you been sitting there?

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Weeks ago I asked myself and calculated: I sat through 85% of a typical weekday while awake (14 hours). The 15% (2.5 hours) consisted of walking between classes, serveries, dorms and study spots, bathroom trips and the odd pacing during a phone call. Now, I wondered, should this ratio stay?

Most folks don’t regularly monitor their sitting. They sit. It is a natural position, no? It sits midway between reclining, a sleeping pose, and standing, an active pose. More than a midpoint, so many activities (working, eating, recreating) default to sitting. I bet you can more easily list what you do when you don’t sit. The thoughtlessness with which we sit likely built sitting’s postural monopoly, and thinking about sitting may lead us to chip away at the monopoly.

Standing is a fine, hale pose, but it is mostly relegated to waiting. Little other reason exists to stand still for a while because standing possesses such potential for movement. Cocktail parties leverage this potential, and so do you if you work standing: You feel free to literally step away from the work at any time. I do this sometimes to gather thoughts or pace around with an idea. If thoughts and ideas move, shouldn’t you? Sitting encourages stasis. You might sit for a while to avoid the effort to stand.

Furniture impedes the habit of standing. Chairs and benches, maybe the most frequently redesigned objects, overpopulate the world, and they are functionally iconic: You know a chair’s proper operation when you see it. Standing folks have not chairs but high tables, or are they countertops? They are functionally ambiguous. Oftentimes you see high tables paired unwillingly with high chairs.

Despite this bias, some landscape architects distort or dissolve bench seating in their projects, and two standing computer stations in Fondren (albeit the 15-minute express printing stations) gently nudge the default from sitting to standing.

But who needs pre-made furniture when you have makeshift? Here is one way to create a standing desk:

  1. Remove a stack of books from Fondren.
  2. Stack books on a table you normally sit at (calibrate stack to your height).
  3. Set work on books.
  4. Toss the chair you normally work in out of sight.

This crude and barely portable solution invites revision and improvement. Especially on a college campus, we should challenge the image of students hunched over a desk, buried in books. They could be standing, head above the books. Sitting need not be endemic to the academic.