Category Archives: Kids and Fitness

Risky Business: Is Writing Killing Me?

Who’d have thought I work in a dangerous job?
Well, I do, according to the news that’s resurfaced lately, that people
who sit for prolonged periods of time each day are at a greater risk for
heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, arthritis—okay, basically, an
earlier death than those who don’t. Apparently I missed all the stories
about it last year, but caught one a few days ago when it flashed across my homepage (and new research about children and sitting
followed a few days later).  Yeah, we all know that being a couch
potato (or desk potato) equals fat, and we’ve also been told that
getting more exercise can make that fat go away, so what will this
“news” tell us that we don’t already know? Shouldn’t I have just skipped
that article and gone on to something more compelling, like the Royal
Wedding or who got voted off on American Idol? I’m glad I read to the
end.  And that I looked up more information.  Because
what I read says that even if you add regular exercise into your life
each week, it won’t make a difference to your overall health if you
spend the majority of your time sitting.  And not just one “ground-breaking study” says that.  Several, conducted in the U.S. as well as across the globe. 

One study of 13,000 men and women over the course of 13 years found that people who sit for most of the day are 54% more likely to die of heart attacks.  A
large-scale Australian study found that adults without known diabetes
who sat for long periods of time had higher rates of abnormal glucose
metabolism. Another, funded by the American Cancer Society, studied
123,216 people with no history of cancer, heart attack, stroke or lung
disease and found a higher total mortality rate among those who sat a
lot– for those who sat more than six hours per day, the rate was at
least 18%, spanning all those diseases.  And the rates for
women were higher—37%, and in women and men who didn’t incorporate much physical activity into their life, the rates jumped to 94% and 48% respectively.  94%?!  And
I’ll bet if they further broke it down by those who work from home vs.
those who don’t, us WAHM’s rates would be even higher, since we have no
co-workers begging us to take a break.  And, come to think of it, heart
disease runs in my family…Geez, doesn’t that put my risk of death higher
than police officers, stunt pilots and Keith Richards? 

Evidently when the body is inactive, certain important regulatory functions are impaired and start to shut down– researchers at a Stanford University conference last summer called it a “unique cascade of physiological changes”…for
example, how fat and sugars are regulated in our bloodstream.  And once
those processes get out of whack, bad stuff can happen, like the
build-up of artery plaque. Heading to the gym once, twice, or even three
times a week can’t prevent it, as these metabolic changes happen every
time you sit for about three to four hours or more. 

That definitely makes me squirm…in my chair…the one I sit in all the time…yep, I could be in big trouble.  I
mean, ever since Allison was 2 and I gave up the outside working world
for life as a work-at-home mom/writer/nonstop volunteer, I’ve spent a
huge amount of time sitting at my computer. That would be almost 15
years of prolonged daily sits to be exact, the kind of sits wher
e you get so immersed in writing something that you can’t stop and you lose track of time.  And after you finish, there’s email to answer. And phone calls to make.  I
often also eat breakfast and lunch at my desk…some days I think I’d
never get up if it weren’t for the dogs needing to be let out and fed. 
My dad always used to say I was a “good little traveler” because I could
“hold it” for hours and never beg to go to the bathroom on long car
trips, and unfortunately that skill has continued into adulthood.  So
throw “kidney problems” onto that list of potential health hazards, and
eye problems, too, from staring at a computer screen all day!  I
can easily sit for four or more hours straight when I’m trying to
finish a writing assignment, and since that was hard to do when the kids
were young, I got into the habit of getting jobs done late, late at
night (a bad habit that continues today), and losing sleep because of it
(yet another health risk!!).  Once the kids were both in
school, I began sitting at my desk even more, during daylight hours—and
today when I’m not at my desk, I’m often driving kids around—sitting in a
car.  Who’d have thought I might be slowly killing myself?
Now I feel like Adam West in the original Batman movie, running around
with that giant fake-looking bomb in his hands, trying to get rid of it…
(okay, time to click here and watch that brief clip for a welcome laugh!)

The news stories go on to say that there is hope, although the solution is not necessarily one of those new “standing” desks
(which bring their own health issues after prolonged use, like foot and
hip problems, varicose veins, carpal tunnel syndrome and an extra load
on the circulatory system).  Researchers suggest, for
adults as well as children, creating a balance between sitting and
standing throughout the day, making sure to get up from your desk every
20 minutes and stretch or move around (hmmm…with “writing immersion”,
I’d probably have to set a loud timer…then again, with my sluggish
computer, I’d have lots of opportunities for breaks if I got up every
time an hourglass appears on my screen for more than 2 seconds…) Another
suggestion is to replace your desk chair with one of those giant
inflatable exercise balls (wow, talk about balance, not to mention a
good thigh workout…). 

Yes,
I have already been trying to stick to a pledge I made last month to
walk and bike more during the day (although it’s getting harder now that
outside temperatures have been hitting the 80s and 90s) and this news
definitely makes me want to stick to that pledge even more (not to
mention the fact that gasoline prices are now in the realm of insanity),
but this is a wake-up (er, GET UP) call to go further, and completely
change how I’ve been doing business. So excuse me while I stop this post
and go move around—I’ve been at my computer for exactly three and a
half hours, and I think I hear my enzymes starting to snore…