Tuesday, June 10, 2014

All Rise!

    If ever you need another reason to get out of that chair and take a walk, you'll find plenty of motivation in a recent flood of research delivering dire warnings about the risks of sitting down.

    Apparently, the more we sit, the greater our chances of becoming unable to eat, or dress, or take a shower by ourselves as we advance in years. That ought to scare all of us into taking steps to curb the slide. Literal steps! Just standing up and moving a bit--strolling to the water fountain or standing up to peer out the window for a moment--can counter the impact of prolonged periods of sitting.

    I encountered this unsettling research while sitting at my desk! I was writing about a retired judge who left the bench because all of the sitting involved with her position as a "sitting judge" was wreaking havoc with her body. Ten years as presiding judge had compounded the pain of a past back injury, adding stress to an already high-pressure job. She took an early retirement and walked away from the bench.

    Research suggests she m are a wise decision when she decided that "All Rise" applied to her as well as to courtroom guests. A convincing body of research warns that people who sit for long periods everyday are more likely to be troubled by physical disabilities after age 60 and more likely to die at an ear;lier age than those who sit less. 

    Given that the average American adult now spends eight hours a day sitting down, we're all pretty much in need of a steady dose of movement. Short, frequent breaks appear to provide the best intervention for thwarting the hazards of sedentary work and entertainment.

    For me, wearing a pedometer provides a reminder to move more. I like the feedback of knowing that just walking downstairs from my desk to get a glass of water, or a cup of tea adds about 50 steps to my tally. Returning to my desk, another 50. Walking around the block boost the total by XXX steps. It's not what we call "exercise" in the usual sense. It's an exercise in preserving the functions and balance I want in my body--today and into the future. 

    Check out the evidence about the hazards of sitting in the Northwestern University study, or in a poster from The Washington Post. For more about the retired judge, look at my Not the Retiring Type column in The Register-Guard. Suggestion: Stand up while you read it! 

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