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 somewherre 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.