Get Off Your Duff! June 04 2010, 0 Comments

Sitting all day is not good for you or me.

This week, I returned to my weekly barn shift. My broken hand is now almost healed. I was practically euphoric picking stalls, sweeping, haying, etc. Why? Because I hadn’t moved like that in nearly two months. For four hours, I never stopped or sat down. Eight weeks away from barn chores had not done good things for me. While I did enjoy a little more freedom on Saturday afternoons, the bad far outweighed the good.

My lifestyle went from fairly active to dangerously sedentary in one day. I’ve always exercised, whether the results were noticeable or not. For years, running was my primary outlet, and the release it provided was as essential to me as chocolate. Once the kids’ activities became more of a time-suck, I ran less. That’s OK. I still jog and walk on a fairly regular basis. But the barn has always been a guaranteed workout. I never came home smelling better than a goat. I’m cranky when I don’t exercise. Lazy and mean aren’t far behind.

During most work days, I sit. I know this is really bad for me. The older I get, the more I feel it. At the end of a long day at work, I feel like there is pudding oozing off the sides of me. Oh, no, that’s just my thighs. Awesome! There are no stairs to take at The Emily Post Institute. It’s not really feasible to park my car further away. I do get out for the occasional lunchtime walk around the block, which helps.

On the days I work from home, I usually write for 20 minutes and then run around the house for 10, switching laundry, pulling something out of the freezer or trying to find the bottom of the kitchen sink. Not with a broken hand. I sat at my desk, slowly mashing the keyboard, with not much to show for my efforts.

Suffice it to say, I am glad to be upright and moving. I am again reminded of how bad it is to sit. There are some interesting New York Times articles on the health dangers of sitting. Here’s a quote from Olivia Judson’s piece “Stand Up While You Read This!” that hit home: “Part of the problem with sitting a lot is that you don’t use as much energy as those who spend more time on their feet. This makes it easier to gain weight, and makes you more prone to the health problems that fatness often brings. But it looks as though there’s a more sinister aspect to sitting, too. Several strands of evidence suggest that there’s a ‘physiology of inactivity’—that when you spend long periods sitting, your body actually does things that are bad for you,” says Judson, who writes on the influence of science and biology on modern life.

James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, invented a treadmill desk, allowing office drones like me to slowly walk on a treadmill while working at a desk built around the treadmill. Dr. Levine estimates that most people would burn 100 calories every hour while walking at 1 mile per hour. OK, but how many people can’t type and walk at the same time and end up chipping their front teeth when they fall off? Can I just ride a horse and put him on the treadmill?

I’ll continue to increase my efforts to move more and undo the damage my hind end has suffered over the past two months. I’ve been able to pick up a few extra barn shifts this weekend. By Monday, I should be looking forward to sitting down.