Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sit on the Fence -- or Walk a Fine Line

     First of all, let me admit that I'm as guilty as anyone. I had a desk job for over 30 years, for which the primary qualification was the ability to sit still for eight to ten hours every day, with an occasional break to attend a meeting ... where the main requirement was the necessity to sit still for somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. In addition, I commuted to work, which for the first few years of my career involved sitting on a train for 45 minutes every morning and evening; then after that, sitting in a car every morning and night.

     "Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you up to 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3. Even if you exercise."

     For all my efforts what did I end up with? A 401K plan, an IRA account; a herniated disk in my neck and a case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Last year I had to undergo surgery for carpal tunnel, followed by six weeks of occupational therapy. Now, at night, I wear a flexible brace on my elbow to prevent further nerve damage in my arm. Also, when the disk in my neck acts up, causing back pain and tingling down my arm, I strap on a neck brace when I go to bed to keep my spine straight while I sleep.

     "People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs."

     Now that I'm retired, what do I do? I sit at my computer for about six  hours a day. However, now I make sure to stand up and take a walk at least once an hour -- in the winter I do six or eight loops around the house, through the kitchen, dining room, living room, around past the laundry and back into the kitchen. In the summer I walk around the yard. (I also walk the golf course, but that's another story.)

     "Those who sit 3 hours or more per day watching TV are 64% more likely to die from heart disease."

     The point is, too much sitting is very bad for you. I know this. We all know this. So last year I joined my local sports club. I now try to head up there as often as I can to ride a stationary bike and "pump iron" on a weight machine. The trouble is, life gets in the way, and I'm not very disciplined. I only get to the health club about once a week, and I know that's not nearly enough.

     "Obese people sit for 2.5 more hours per day than thin people."

     When I had kids at home, we had a dog, and it was my job to walk him every night. That helped some. But I was younger then; it was before I'd developed back problems and nerve problems. After my kids had grown and our dog died, I did not get another pet. But when I met B, she had a dog, and she got me to go with her when she walked her dog in the evening. But she couldn't get me to go with her in the morning. And that's when she walks two or three miles around the neighborhood. B doesn't have any back problems; she doesn't have any nerve problems, because she walks every day, rain or shine, summer and winter.

     Occasional exercise is better than no exercise. But it's walking every day that keeps you in shape, keeps the weight down, and keeps the muscles and ligaments and bones working through your 6th and 7th and 8th decades.

     "The human body simply isn't built to sit for long periods of time."

     I always knew I needed to sit less and walk more. Since discovering this graphic, I've redoubled my efforts. I'm getting better. I don't want to be 40% likelier to die in the next 15 years. But I'm also open to suggestions ... about how people manage to put more walking in their lives, and less sitting around watching TV or typing into the computer.

     For those of you who want to read the fine print of this graphic, step over to "Sitting Is Killing You" on this Medical Billing and Coding website. (For some reason, this is as large as I could get the graphic to reproduce via Blogger.) Go ahead, take the walk. It's good for you.


Stephen Hayes said...

I'll be paying attention to see if your readers have any great ideas for adding walking to their lives. My life is very sedentary and my name says it all. I swim three mornings a week but I know this isn't enough.

Dick Klade said...

Nothing unusual about this idea, but a scan of mini-mall parking lots shows most folks don't do it.

Park far away from the place you are visiting, rather than jockeying for a spot as close to the door as you can get.

You'll enjoy a nice little bit of walking from and to your vehicle. The side benefit is a much lower chance another driver will ding your doors or fenders.

Olga said...

Fortunately for me I am a big walker...although now I have to worry about alligators chasing me.

b said...

This is a very frightening set of statistics...I am "sitting up and taking notice". Thank you.


rosaria said...

You just published a community service announcement. Way to go!

Donna said...

I live in NYC with no car-I walk every day and also carry all my groceries,lift weights and do yoga. I eat a healthy low fat diet with lots of fruit and vegetables-I'm 62-hopefully,this will be enough to stay healthy.

MerCyn said...

Moved from suburbia where we used a car to go everywhere to a town where we can walk places. I have get out and walk almost everyday - to the library, a store to buy a couple of items, the coffee shop. Sometimes a couple of blocks, usually at least a mile and in good weather long walks (3-6 miles). Also hit the gym for Zumba and weights.

Olhank said...

It sounds like you really need to pry yourself away from your computer for an hour each day to get on a treadmill or something; preferably a walk outside. Maybe you could use a dictation app like Dragon on a smartphone to rough draft some of your blog work while walking. It works really well for a free app.

Jono said...

Taking care of animals helps a lot, but winter in this part of the country isn't conducive to staying outside for long periods of time. At least there is a fair amount of activity just getting dressed to go out and come in.

wv: sidism, as in I've been siddin too long.

Linda Myers said...

I put on raingear today and walked to get a pedicure, put a couple of our books in the mail, and pick up a sympathy card.

I'm on the computer a lot, but I bought a gadget for my desktop that raises the computer and keyboard so I stand instead of sitting. I love it.

I need to do more, but it's a good beginning, anyway.

Catch Her in the Wry said...

I live in a big old 3 story Victorian home with a basement laundry and do all the house-cleaning myself. That means I climb lots of stairs every day. The woman who owned the house for 40 years before me lived until she was 102, so I'm thinking the stair climbing is good. It's been 15 years so far and no aches, pains or medications. I also always use stairs instead of elevators whenever possible.

bethanie said...

how about housework? Vacuuming, mopping, even dusting are walking around activities that are also productive. My mom's cardiologist advised her to "clean her own home". I do it and it is a part of my exercise regimen. to make it more of a workout, I try to work fast! I also go to a gym.

Bob Lowry said...

I always find it amusing that folks driving to the health club always attempt to get a parking space as close to the front door as possible.

Probably the saddest sight is a health club in Sarasota, Florida that hads an escalator instead of stairs. Even walking into the gym has been simplified. God forbid you get any exercise on the way to your exercise class.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Timely piece. I visited my orthopedic surgeon yesteday for a cortisone shot in my right shoulder. I fell on it in December and have made it worse with typing at the comuputer. Hopefully this shot will do the trick. I will not have the surgery you have as it fails too often.

I wear a wrist brace most nights, but take it off sometime around 2:00 when I wake up with a numb arm. I've had problems with the tendon in my right arm for years.

Do sit too much? Probably, but if its going to kill me its too late. Besides, I'd rather be reading or writing.

I ask you many writers do you think were fitness freaks?



PS besides, I got all my exercise when I was younger.

Douglas said...

My exercise of choice is to ride around in a golf cart for 4 hours. I do get exercise this way. There's the getting out and walking up to the tee or green and back and then there's all that swinging of the club in a vain attempt to move the ball forward.

Laura Lee Carter aka the Midlife Crisis Queen said...

Yes Tom,
One thing I promised myself after I lost my job: Take a long walk EVERYDAY!

After you lose your job, you've lost all of your excuses not to exercise. Plus it's GREAT for your mental health! So get outside!

Laura Lee aka the Midlife Crisis Queen!