I’m pleased to say that I work mostly standing up. Teachers generally do. In a tutorial lesson I will spend more time sitting down, but on the whole I patrol the front of my classroom in a region from board to computer. I encourage my students to stand up too – some tutorial students will come and join me at the board and we’ll swap pens back and forth and illustrate our assertions with sketchy diagrams and maps. I’ve had cabinet ministers draw geo-political maps, football aficionados draw formations, engineers draw nuclear power stations and countless bemused managers draw organigrams.
The benefits of standing up are clear – a mainly sedentary occupation can strip two years from your life expectancy and add inches to your waistline, and no amount of regular exercise will make a jot of difference, as we have known since the 1950s when studies were carried out on rates of coronary heart disease in bus conductors vs. bus drivers (read the scary facts, here).
No coincidence, I think, that chefs always work standing up (as one of my students, Ula, a trainee chef, pointed out yesterday in a discussion on the topic). They know what is good for them, and where the dangers lie. Chefs are by no means alone however, even among professions which generally tend to the sitting or even recumbant. Walmart is famous and not alone in insisting its managers conduct all meetings standing up, although this is in the interests of productivity, not of reduced girth. And a few years ago on a trip to Leipzig, when I visited the composer Mendelssohn’s house, I was mildly surprised that his work desk required him to stand – as did his day job as conductor of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, for that matter. And as we know, conductors, whether bus or orchestral, live for ever (Mendelssohn being an unhappy exception, an apoplexy having carried him off when he was only 37).
Here is his orchestra then, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, conducted by his successor, Kurt Masur in suitably mobile music, the overture to the incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.