We tend to think and talk about our jobs in terms of what we produce, not what we do. In some ways, this is misleading. I am a therapist for military families in southern California, so I produce therapeutic conversations with people and clinical documentation to convince the county that I had those conversations. But what would you see meĀ doing if you watched me work for a week? It varies a little but it would look something like this:

19 hours sitting across from people, talking sometimes, writing on a clipboard occasionally

19 hours sitting at a desk, mousing and typing as fast as I can on a laptop

2 hours sitting in my car, driving between offices or client’s homes

30 minutes sitting at a desk, talking on the phone

30 minutes walking to the printer and back to my desk

As you can see, I mostly sit for a living. It’s not what you think when you set out to be a therapist, but that’s the job, and it’s a health sacrifice. The peak of physical exertion in my day is standing up to walk to the printer, and believe me, I value those moments. It’s pretty clear from research that sitting is not a great way to live one’s life: Time spent sitting takes a toll on your health in a way that can’t be made up for by exercising after work. Here’s a pretty good review of some of the research. (It’s a small sacrifice, of course, compared to the sacrifices my clients make in the course of military life. It’s helpful for me to think about it like that–one small sacrifice in return for many big sacrifices.)

It’s also not good for some of the ways I like to be creative, like writing this blog or composing music. I get home and think about sitting down to write, and no thanks. I’ll fly my kite, check for tomato worms, take a walk, help prep dinner, or lie in the hammock. Standing, squatting, walking, lying down, anything but sitting!

Straw bale standing desk

Straw bale standing desk


I have experimented with standing desks a bit. At work I can put my laptop on my in/outbox stack and an external mouse/keyboard setup on my briefcase on top of my desk. It doesn’t work for paperwork out in the field–too much stuff to carry around–but works OK at my main office, as long as I have the energy. That’s been the main problem with it at work; I pretty quickly get tired of standing and want to sit down. Standing is not the solution to sitting, but it’s some variety.