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Get up, stand up

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With only six weeks to go until the Mill Race Marathon, my training program is right on schedule. With any luck and barring injury, I should be ready to go come Sept. 27.

I won’t actually be running the full marathon … or the half-marathon … or the 5K. But I do hope to walk the 5K.

Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment for those of you who run, work out and are otherwise active on a regular basis. But trust me, for this desk jockey, it’s a bit of a challenge.

I have spent roughly eight hours a day sitting at a desk since 1977, thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t out in the heat of summer and cold of winter doing physical labor. Only recently have I discovered that 37 years of riding a desk chair have been harder on my body than the same amount of physical labor would have been.

Poor posture and craning my head forward to see my computer terminal have contributed to painful arthritis in my neck, as well as frequent muscle soreness in my neck and shoulders.

My thigh muscles are shortened and tight, and I’m starting to have leg pain that could be vein trouble. A couple of years ago a doctor told me, “Basically, you’re sitting yourself to death.”

I sort of laughed it off at the time, but since then I’ve read several articles that back up this theory that sitting can be harmful to your health. Besides a multitude of musculoskeletal problems, too much sitting can make you fat.

I recently read an article by Mary MacVean of the Los Angeles Times about a new book called “Get Up!” by Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk. Levine agrees with my doctor that our chairs are killing us.

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting,” he says. “We are sitting ourselves to death.”

In fact, Levine, has quantified the damage. He says we lose two hours of life for every hour we sit. Wow! Think about that. If Levine and my math are correct, for every five-day, 40-hour work week you spend sitting at a computer, your life span is reduced by 80 hours, or 3.33 days. I’m no genius, but that sounds like a losing proposition.

So the next time your significant other comes home from the office and says, “Ugh, work is killing me this week,” you can offer this comforting reply, “Yes it is, and every other week, too!”

Why is sitting so hazardous? The human body simply wasn’t designed to spend a large portion of its lifetime sitting on its glutei maximi. We’re supposed to be out hunting and gathering or fleeing from saber-toothed tigers and wooly mammoths.

Since much of that is impractical and/or impossible these days, what can one do? Move. Get up and move. If you sit at a desk all day, make sure you stand up and move around every hour or so. And don’t go home from work at 5 and sit in the recliner until you go to bed at 11. Take a walk after dinner. Park at the back of the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

I know it’s a little late in the game, but I’ve decided to take Levine at his word and get up off my duff more often. If I can successfully walk the 5K at this year’s marathon, who knows, maybe next year I’ll be able to run it.

But it’s really not about the marathon. It’s about developing the habit of exercise and movement. If I can do that, perhaps I can drop my weekly loss of life span from 3.33 days to 1.5 days.


Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or

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