We think of the opposite of sitting as standing. Stand desks are indeed obvious alternatives to sit desks. However, this is simply a variation on the same basic idea of the modern work station as a form of immobilization.
When we talk about sitting today, we are not talking about sitting as a general category of movement. When we say “sit down” we mean in chairs. We do not mean on a wall, on the floor, or on the ground etc. We mean sit in a chair. It is an unquestioned given in our society that this is so. Therefore, standing at a desk seems like a way to fix the problem of sitting too much. It is indeed a part of the solution.
However it is a form of sleight of hand to conflate the general category of sitting with the kind of sitting that we do today in chairs. The opposite of sitting as a general category is not standing. The opposite of a seated desk is not a stand desk. A stand desk is just another type of desk.
When we say that the opposite of sitting is standing we are literally missing the elephant in the room. Chairs dominate nearly every room that we make — not just chairs but all the other furniture that are variations of chairs (such as couches) and that are complements to chairs (side tables, coffee tables, lamps, desks, shelves, etc.). These structures dictate our movement and our lack of movement in a way that is fundamental and harmful but that we all take for granted.
Consider that chairs and their relatives are the dominant surface our body interacts with in almost all settings. Chairs do not need to define our behavior so overwhelmingly. We can have all this and have health too. However, we will have to back way off and open up the floor.
The chair is a tool for immobilization. Chairs are used to immobilize the body. We use chairs to keep classrooms in order. Students are often punished simply for getting out of their chairs. This is not a rare phenomenon. Workers can be penalized for leaving their seats or their workstations. Immobilization is a powerful and punitive form of social control.
The floor is the opposite of the chair. Specifically, the open floor is the opposite of the chair just as free movement is the opposite of modern sitting. The opposite of the chair is the floor just as the opposite of immobilization is freedom of movement. This statement is more meaningful both biomechanically and politically than to suggest that a stand desk is the solution to too much sitting. Sales floor personnel will quickly tell you that standing alone is no solution to the problem.The epidemiology in fact makes it clear that our beliefs about sitting are an alarming and dangerous self deception. The epidemiology on the sitting disease epidemic, also called the physical inactivity pandemic, is motivating, persuasive, and we can see the process playing out in our colleagues, family, and ourselves.
Although it is true that sitting can be done in 100 different ways, and although it is true that even butterflies and fish and snakes sit in their own way, and even though we have been sitting for millennia to practice enlightenment, when we say sitting today what we mean is sitting in chairs as a form of immobilization. The opposite of this is not standing or a stand desk. It is the floor and the freedom of movement it encourages.
Many of us are familiar with what respect for the floor looks like. We remove our shoes to keep it clean. Some of us train on it, meditate on it, work on it, eat on it, and sleep on it. We soften and pad and decorate the floor for comfort and safety and pleasure. We provide pillows and blankets and rugs. It is the surface that we first learned to move on. It is the surface we need in order to learn to move again.
The cure for the sitting disease epidemic is not standing at our desks. The cure for the sitting disease epidemic is the floor and the freedom of movement it provides.