Standing up is the new running. Not content to have me sweating it out in Lycra – I was that person wearing purple shorts on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal towpath at Shipley last week – those self-appointed lifestyle gurus have adopted as their theme song Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up and declared sitting down to be the scourge of the age.
They say that couch potatoes should be, well, if not couch runner beans then at least vertical stalks of Brussels sprouts and watch TV from a perpendicular position. As for those of us who sit at desks, their advice is just as straight up and down. Get off your backside, mate, and work on your feet.
These sages of stand-up are not being funny. They base their philosophy on a slew of health studies that found that people who are bum-bound in offices live two years less than those who earn their wages on their feet. Sitting down, found one study, changes how our bodies process glucose. If we are sat all day at a computer we are less likely to efficiently break down the sugar in our diet, and so put ourselves at higher risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Standing up is credited with a further benefit: clearer thinking. It increases the blood supply to the brain. It was for this reason that Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up, and there’s a famous photo of him scribbling away at a chest-high desk in his Florida home. Winston Churchill had a special stand-up desk built for him in Downing Street because it helped him to write better speeches.
Of course, standing up doesn’t always have this effect, as we saw last week when Donald Trump stood at a United Nations lectern and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. But I digress. The reason the lifestyle police are standing up and being counted against sitting down is that the issue has been hijacked by Silicon Valley. Once upon a time a little voice inside our heads would tell us to get up and get some exercise, but now there’s an app for that and it resides on smart watches.
These contain something called an accelerometer, which senses when you remain in one position and nags you to get moving. On one version a friend has, it actually taps his wrist like a stern PE teacher after an hour of inactivity. I can imagine this not going down well in those long meetings many office workers are forced to endure, when first one attendee then another gets up and takes a stroll round the table.
But if the studies are correct and standing does aid better thought processes, perhaps they should take out the seating at this week’s Labour conference in Brighton. Perhaps if they all stand up we will finally get some clear thinking on Labour’s attitude to Brexit. Because right from the earliest days of the referendum on Europe most people haven’t really had a clue. And since the spike in Labour’s vote at the general election – against every prediction – was put down to young people voting against the Brexit-obsessed Tories, Labour should stand up for the 48 per cent who voted to stay in Europe and for those who bitterly regret swallowing the £350 mllion lie.