Sometimes you have to wonder why certain medical studies get done in the first place. They don’t seem to do anything but confirm what should be obvious truths about personal health and well-being.
For example, you’ve known since you were a kid that going outside and getting some exercise is good for you. You probably first learned that when your Mom walked past the family room, saw you and your brother sitting cross-legged on the floor watching cartoons, and marched in, turned off the TV, and told the two of you in no uncertain terms to go outside, “get some fresh air,” and play with your neighborhood friends for a while. And in this, as in all things, motherly wisdom was unerring: cartoons were great, but messing around outside with your friends and playing football or riding bikes or exploring the neighborhood was even more fun.
And. not surprisingly, Mom was right about the benefits of getting that “fresh air” and exercise, too–as a new medical study confirms. The study looked at the impact of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when stay at home orders first took effect. It found that people who spent more time sitting during that time period–because they weren’t walking to their workplaces, or their cars, or conference rooms for in-person meetings, or to lunch with their officemates–were more likely to have higher symptoms of depression. And, of course, the depressive effect is in addition to (although possibly correlated with) the rise in obesity during the more sedentary work from home days of the pandemic.
The researchers of this latest “confirming the obvious” health study recommend that people working from home focus on getting off their duffs and finding ways to build some walking and outdoor time into their days, such as by taking walks before their workday starts, at a designated lunch hour, and after the workday has ended. It’s exactly the kind of instruction your Mom would have given.
Here’s an another annoying airport development — the gate-sitters.
The gate-sitters have been a growing problem ever since the advent of smartphones, laptops, and charging stations. They cluster around airport outlets and charging stations, plopping themselves down on the floor and spreading their bags and carry-one and other paraphernalia around them, casually blocking what is supposed to be a public area. They could stand, of course, and reduce their traffic-blocking footprint, but I guess that would be inconvenient. So they sit, and take up space, and expect the rest of us to just weave our way around them.
But now the sitters are spreading. Yesterday as I was waiting to board a plane I observed a twenty-something girl sit cross-legged in the middle of a walking lane at the gate and promptly start thumbing away at her phone. There were seats available away from the walking areas, but evidently those did not meet her standards. So when people got off the incoming flight, there she was, like an iceberg, blocking traffic and making people with strollers and wheelchairs navigate around her, oblivious to the fact that she was complicating their lives.
What inferences could you draw about what this young woman was like in her everyday life? Shallow? Self-absorbed? You got it!
They’ve come out with another study that will make us all feel guilty and worried about our lifestyles. This one concludes that sitting down can be bad for you.
It’s true. According to the report, sitting down too much increases your chances of heart disease, blood clots in the brain, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The study find a link between sitting down and glucose and fatty acids in the blood that are chemical markers for diabetes. Spending just another 90 minutes standing every day, the study concludes, can significantly reduce your chance of developing diabetes. In addition, because your metabolism is at its lowest when you are sitting on your duff, standing increases your metabolism, requires you to use more of your muscles, and will help you lose weight. (We can all expect to begin to see TV commercials in the near future advertising the “[insert celebrity name here] Stand Up Diet” and including testimonials by ordinary people who claim that standing has changed their lives.)
The problem, of course, is that many of us have office jobs that involve sitting. Some people use standing desks — I’m thinking of the Biking Brewer here — but I’m not sure how many employers are going to toss their vast collections of sit-down desks, cubicles, chairs, and tables and spend the money to re-equip their offices with stand-up replacements. So, we all need to figure out ways to spend less time seated on our seats. Walking to a co-worker’s office rather than calling them is one option. Another is to drink lots of water so that you must rise from your chair to make regular trips to the restroom. Yet another is to walk somewhere a few blocks away over the lunch hour, or stand when you are talking to your friend rather than plopping down butt-first somewhere.
It’s tempting to sit on our tushes on a comfortable chair. After all, what’s the human keister for if not a good sit? But Bob Marley apparently had it right: “Get up, stand up” is the way to go.