Interrupt your Sitting – How to bring Movement into your Teaching

Dr Liz Doherty I Teach Trad Standing Desk

“Sitting is the New Smoking” – a phrase coined by Dr. James Levine, former Director of the Mayo Clinic at Arizona State University.

Wouldn’t that statement stop you in your tracks!              

Yet, all the research points to the reality that living a sedentary lifestyle can be dangerous to your health. Even though you might include regular exercise as part of your routine, excessive sitting can still be causing damage.

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. The chair is out to kill us.”

– Dr. James Levine,

How much time do you spend sitting as part of your teaching practice? Do you sit when you are preparing materials and planning out lessons? Do you sit as you travel to and from your lessons e.g. in the car? And what about during your lessons – do you sit from the beginning of the lesson to the end?

Clock it up over the next week – and you may be shocked at how much time you spend seated as part of your teaching practice.

So what we we do about this? How can we intentionally bring more standing into our teaching? How can we interrupt our sitting? How can we break up and reduce our sitting time?


As traditional music teachers, it’s inevitable that we have a certain amount of deskwork to do every week. This might involve admin tasks, creating lesson plans, building resources, reading and research. When you sit at your desk, why not set a timer and pause every 30 mins; take a 5 minute break to stand, stretch and move. As well as impacting positively on your health this will likely increase your productivity as well.

How about investing in a standing desk? This allows you stand up comfortably while working. If making the change to a standing desk alone seems too much, maybe consider a sit-stand-desk. With this you can adjust the height (either manually or automatically, depending on the model) to suit both a sitting and a standing position. This is the set-up that I have in my own office. Even so, I still set a timer to remind me to switch between sitting and standing.


One of the things I always find challenging about teaching online is not being able to move around. I always prowl around the room in a class, so having to stay in the one spot, in front of a camera, is something that I definitely find restrictive. When teaching online, even though your range of movement might be limited, you don’t necessarily have to sit all the time. Can you mix it up, and alternate standing and sitting in a single lesson? If that’s not working for you, how about sitting for one lesson, standing for the next, and so on?  

And what if you play harp, or pipes, or any other instrument where standing is not an option? For those parts of the lesson where you are demonstrating a technique or teaching a tune, then yes, you will need to be seated. But what about other activities that you can include in your lesson that can free you up to stand? Can you add in a listening activity, for example? Or intentionally include some stretching exercises as a warm-up or as a break mid-lesson – great for you AND great for your students.

What about teaching in the room – how is your sitting/standing ratio there? You might get all your  steps in while you are teaching, and that’s great! But if you do notice that you tend to sit for the duration, here are some ways to change it up:

  • Include a movement activity as a warm-up at the start of each class;
  • Break your lesson into chunks – and deliberately mix up sitting and standing;
  • Where your instrument doesn’t easily allow for standing e.g. harp or pipes or accordion, try introducing activities that take you and your students AFI (away from their instrument) for short periods of time. For example, invite them to stand in a circle to listen to a recording of a piece of music.

Do what you can to interrupt your sitting as much and as often as you can. Your body will thank you for it!

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