Latest health headline: regular exercise isn’t enough; if you dare to sit down during the day, you’re going to die early. This is only a slight exaggeration of the conclusions of “Meet the Active Couch Potato” (New York Times, April 4). The article says, “A growing body of science suggests that…sitting a lot is both widespread and unhealthy.” And this is true even if you exercise regularly. Spending ninety minutes a day exercising will not counteract the ninety you spend sitting. The article did not say what kind or how much movement would offset the negative effects of time spent on our backsides.
This conclusion is both frightening and maddening. Frightening, because I like to sit down to eat a meal, read a book, write, play the piano, and watch TV after walking an hour a day. Maddening because now that I’m retired I devote more time to exercise, but I refuse to give up sitting. Maddening because each new health study that receives media attention suggests something different from the last research presented on the same topic and I am reaching a point of becoming indifferent if not hostile to the research.
The author of an article on the same topic in the blog Time Goes By, titled “Banishing the Exercise Guilt” rails against this new information as “guilt inducing.” He chooses reader comments from the Times article to support his claim. I read many of the comments on the Times site and thought that most of the writers were seeking ways to increase their activity levels in their workplaces rather than feeling guilty about not living up to the standards the research results suggest they should. Comments ranged from advice on buying a high desk that would allow people to stand up at work to sitting on an exercise ball. It’s hard for me to imagine that just standing at a computer, getting up and taking a stretch, or circling a desk every hour, would make much difference in total muscular activity and keep anyone alive years longer.
At present, that I’m getting regular exercise gives me great pleasure and a clear conscience. I will stand up now and walk into the kitchen for a bite of dark chocolate. The medicinal effects of chocolate combined with this exercise are bound to carry me happily into my next decade.
My friend Roberta produced another solution. “I’ve ordered a giant hamster cage in which I will run for 20 hours a day. This will surely make my life longer–and worth living!”