Could squatting in the office save your life?

A Tanzanian tribe may offer a healthy antidote to sitting at a desk all day – if you can kneel or squat for more than five minutes, that is

Sam Wollaston doing it the Hadza way.
Sam Wollaston doing it the Hadza way. Photograph: The Guardian

So kneeling is the new standing. Squatting, too, when it comes to work – desk work, that is – that would normally be done sitting.

Yup, there’s research. It finds that the Hadza people in Tanzania, whose inactive hunting-gathering lifestyle is similar to that of office workers, don’t have the same health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and premature death. That’s because even when they’re resting – kneeling and squatting – they require more muscle activity than sitting on a chair.

Maybe more than standing, too. Yeah, I’m looking at those of you with your yuppy-standy-uppy desk; you’re standing in the past. This is the way we work now: the Hadza way.

[Squats]

OK, so I’m nowhere near my desktop screen. Not a problem though. I’ve got a laptop – just no lap. If I put it on the floor between my haunches, I can reach the keys and see the screen, but it’s not easy.

My mum can happily squat for hours; I’ve never been good at it, and now that I’m a brittle middle-aged man, everything – calves, thighs, stomach “muscles” – is screaming. I last a little more than five minutes before toppling over backwards. Embarrassing in an office environment. I’m not built for it. What do we want? Squatters’ rights. When do we want ’em? NOW!

[Staggers into a kneeling position]

That’s better. In the tall kneeling position, I can work at my desk again. I’m feeling muscle activity, certainly, but this is doable … for a while.

It’s getting towards 10 minutes now, but my thighs and hamstrings are beginning to say enough. It’s obviously because I’m dragging parts of my body back from early retirement against their will.

Standing is easy because most of us stand a bit. To squat-work or kneel-work – unless you’re Hadza or my mum – you’re going to have to ease into it, increasing it a little each time. Or go to pilates.

Now my knees are hurting from supporting my weight; I should have brought a hassock to work. I may as well say a little prayer while I’m down here – for the future of the planet and a vaccine, of course. But please can I have my chair back?