"Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time."
"I have a two-story house and a bad memory, so I’m up and down those stairs all the time. That’s my exercise."
Something is always the new something. A while back, someone—obviously a marketing type—declared that my age, 60, was the new 40. I would celebrate this news if I could at all remember what it was like to be 40. Presumably this new lease gives me permission to go skydiving or mogul skiing if I want.
Now some health care professionals, always looking to put a new wrapping on an old package, have told us that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting around watching TV, or worse, slouched all day at a desk in the office, is tantamount to hoovering in a pack of Camels. According to a couple of observant bloggers from The Mayo Clinic, we 21st century folks move around about 90% less than our cave-dwelling ancestors did. And this is not even counting the fact that our ancestors never had to wander about the cave looking for the PVR remote.
|The dangers of second-hand sitting|
The biggest horror for some is that all this prolonged perching on our posteriors might even contribute to their growing bigger and flabbier. This coincides perfectly with something I uncharitably used to say to a sedentary friend of mine who was chronically discontented about her Reubenesque shape: “Think your ass is too fat? Try getting off it.”
There is also the lesser known danger of second-hand sitting. A quick Google search will reveal news stories of people who (intentionally or accidentally) crushed or suffocated someone by sitting on them.
Whatever the original motivation for comparing sitting with smoking (aside from the obvious fact that both involve butts), designers and marketers have risen to the challenge. I recently visited an office complex where the workstations can be raised or lowered, like a car on a hoist, so that you can write your reports standing up. There was even an area where you could hold a conference call while jogging along on a treadmill. Forget whistling while you work; try doing a quick 5K. I can’t imagine what the thump-thump-thump of pounding running shoes sounds like at the other end of the line. Not to mention the heavy breathing.
|She couldn't just go for a nice walk in the fresh air?|
All this design accommodation for sedentary workers speaks to a sadder problem. Imagine the money that could be saved on these contraptions if more of us just thought to get up from our desks and walk around every 30 minutes or so. There doesn’t have to be a destination; just a stroll around the floor will get the muscles moving. Or climb a flight of stairs. There are people where I work who religiously attend step classes every lunch hour and then ride the elevator one floor to the cafeteria.
It’s not our office furniture we need to change; it’s our attitudes. Sitting is not the new smoking; our ingrained, Pavlovian habits are. I fear a culture - corporate or personal - in which staring at a computer at your desk all day without a break is in any way good for you or the company.
Walk to the subway. Mornings on the TTC, when I am not cycling to work, I can’t help noticing the hordes of people who pile, push, and clamber their way onto our overcrowded bus, and then ride it exactly two stops to the subway, grimly packed like vertical sardines for the whole 45 seconds of the ride. Has it never occurred to them that there is a convenient sidewalk that will also take them to the subway with a good deal less tsuris?
I happen to like getting places under my own power. I would rather walk than ride, would rather bicycle than drive. But even if I didn’t, I like to think that my mind would make the connection between activity and health; or at the very least between activity and muscle tone. Surely it doesn’t take an Ironman triathlete or and ultramarathoner to realize this.Most of us were blessed with two strong legs, which feature some of the biggest muscles in our bodies, and exercising those big muscles can help us stay fit and lose weight faster. This is why marathoners are usually fitter than chess players.
Over the years, the World Health Organization has repeatedly listed physical inactivity among the leading preventable causes of death in developed countries; as our population ages, this will translate into extra expense to deal with a problem that should never exist. It takes no equipment, training, Pilates classes, or Lululemon wardrobe to go for a walk or to climb stairs.
All you have to do is stand up.
|Ground Control to Major Tom. Get a Life.|