Posted in Health

You’re hired: An ethnographer examining the culture of sitting

I have a job for you. Today you are going to be an ethnographer. Ethnographers (in case you don’t know) are anthropologists who study cultures primarily through observation. You will be a detective of sorts, you will seek to understand the culture surrounding you. You can scribble notes in your trusty notepad or just file them in that incredible memory of yours. Today you will watch- the sitters.

Who are the sitters you might ask? Well, um, if you live in the States, pretty much everybody, including perhaps, you. When you walk into a room – what do you do? Sit. When you watch TV – what do you do? Sit. When you work – what do you do? Sit. I could go on, but I won’t. Goodness, that is a lot of sitting.

Unless you consume very little media you have likely heard the potential dangers of too much sitting. The Washington Post had an article in January focused on The Health Hazards of Sitting. It’s worth a review. The article points out that too much sitting is damaging to our hearts, muscles, backs, brain function, etc. Wow!

This sounds like a serious health issue to me. I would submit, however, that this isn’t a personal issue. It is a cultural issue. Remember that work you did as an ethnographer (two paragraphs ago)? Did you notice how everyone seems to be sitting? Sitting may have seemed contagious. Well, perhaps it is. That is, after all how culture works.

We, as societies come together and determine the behavioral norms in our communities. We influence each other on nearly every level including how we talk, walk, eat, dance, work and even how much where and when we sit. I think that is pretty powerful, don’t you?

The beauty of culture is that it can be both solid and malleable. The core of traditions hold strong binding groups of people together in celebration of life and love. However, culture shifts over time. New information and experiences alter behavioral norms. Maybe, armed with the information that sitting is damaging our health, we can help push forward a cultural shift in which we trade all of the sitting for movement, action and exercise.

You might be the first in your community to initiate this shift, but hopefully overtime your friends, family and co-workers will join you. Why not start today?

Sitting is just one area of health where we impact each other.  What health culture do you belong to? How are you influenced by your community to engage in behaviors that improve or damage your health? Can you be the person in your family or workplace that helps shift your culture in a healthier direction?

Have a fabulous day! If you like my posts please follow me to get notices when I write, share a link to my site or leave me a comment. You can learn a little more about me here. I would love to hear from you. What is or isn’t working on your your journey to better health?


2 thoughts on “You’re hired: An ethnographer examining the culture of sitting

  1. I sit way too much. I am trying to be aware of that and get up from the computer more often and move. Yesterday I searched and found a good youtube video to work out to and did it a couple of times to break up my walking routine. Great anthropological blog!


    1. Woo hoo Barb! I am so glad to hear you are taking steps to move more. I personally believe tiny steps are the best way to a healthy lifestyle. I love that you found a video on YouTube that works for you. Isn’t technology incredible? Yay! Anthropology. It felt good to get back to some of my schooling.


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