How changing the way you sit could add years to your life

How changing the way you sit could add years to your life

Our bodies evolved to take rest breaks, but sitting on chairs and couches can cause long-term damage. Here’s how to change the way you sit and boost your health

By Herman Pontzer and David Raichlen

ANOTHER blistering(ˈblist(ə)riNG) afternoon in northern(ˈnôrT͟Hərn) Tanzania(ˌtanzəˈnēə), another high-stakes game of musical chairs. Stumbling(ˈstəmb(ə)liNG) back into camp to escape the sun, desperate(ˈdesp(ə)rət) for a seat, we glanced at each other and then at the single unoccupied(ˌənˈäkyəˌpīd) camp chair. In the other, grinning(ˈɡriniNG), sat(sat) Onawasi, a respected elder with a mischievous(ˈmisCHivəs) bent(bent). He seemed to be enjoying this.

We were spending our summer with the Hadza community, one of the last populations of hunter-gatherers on the planet(ˈplanət). Hadza men and women manage to avoid heart disease and other diseases of the more industrialised(inˈdəstrēəˌlīz) world, and we wanted to understand why. Our small research team had come in two Land Cruisers(ˈkro͞ozər) loaded with tech to measure(ˈmeZHər) every movement made and calorie(ˈkal(ə)rē) burned as Hadza men and women scoured(ˈskou(ə)r) the landscape(ˈlan(d)ˌskāp) every day for wild game, honey, tubers(ˈt(y)o͞obər) and berries(ˈberē).

After a long morning, we felt drained(drān) by the inescapable(ˌinəˈskāpəb(ə)l) heat(hēt) and humidity((h)yo͞oˈmidədē). All we wanted to do was sit. Onawasi seemed to feel the same way. He had spent the morning hunting, and certainly deserved the chair more than we did. But this was getting out of hand. Our precious(ˈpreSHəs) camp chairs that we took into the bush despite their weight were Hadza magnets(ˈmaɡnət). Every visitor to our little research area seemed drawn to them like moths to a porch(pôrCH) light.