When I began writing this article I knew, like most of you, that editing is an unhealthy occupation. It’s so fraught with hazards it’s a wonder anyone will sell us health or life insurance. We sit long hours, our work is mentally taxing, we stare at monitors, our physical effort amounts to repetitive flexing of wrists and fingers.
I started off with an exploration of sitting, seemingly our worst nemesis, but went no further. What I discovered scared the living daylights out of me.
Sitting (the new smoking) creates problems ranging from hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and — all elements of metabolic syndrome — to weight gain and spine injury. It is suspected as a factor in cognitive decline. The list can go on, but we already knew sitting was bad.
Who can forget the initial panic over the sitting scare? I even started to design the standing desk that I planned to build. But this solution was generally dismissed when standing was found to be as bad as sitting. And I promptly rejected the treadmill desk, as did almost everyone else. Apparently it exceeded the reasonable limits of multitasking.
I’ve been in this game for more than half a century and that adds up to a lot of sitting. By most accounts you should be reading this at a seance. But while I’ve been assailed by more than one element of metabolic syndrome I’ve been able to beat the odds through weight management, daily power walks and hobbies that keep me physically involved and far away from a chair. I’m convinced this has helped, and my doctors agree. In fact, the conventional suggestion to combat sitting disease is to head to the gym or simply engage in adequate physical activity.
The shocking and discouraging finding of health research, however, is that these measures apparently offer only limited compensation. I didn’t know this. Exercise won’t hurt you but it won’t save you either: Studies show that there is no level of regular exercise that can undo the damage sitting does to our bodies. The better policy is to just sit less and keep up the exercise to mitigate the damage.
As James Hamblin wrote in The Atlantic, citing experts, when it comes to cardiovascular health and diabetes, what is important “isn’t the time we spend exercising, but the time we spend not moving at all. The main conclusion is that vigorous physical activity… doesn’t cancel out the negative impact of time spent being sedentary, which appears to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of death) and diabetes, even among people who exercise regularly.”
Previous post from Wilf Popoff: Wasted Words: The Rebound of Christmas.
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