So now I have to worry about sitting. Prolonged sitting, the media tell me, could shorten my life. They say it’s a risk factor like smoking, fattening and aging. Aging? Although I stopped smoking and fattening years ago and survived, no one I know of who stopped aging lived to tell about it. I’d rather age than not, thank you. By aging, shortening my life may be a risk. By not aging, it’s a sure thing. I thought everyone knew this.
One study reported in the media suggested that after age 25, each hour I sat watching TV reduced my life expectancy by nearly 22 minutes. I was shocked. With all the murder and mayhem I’m exposed to on TV, I thought the risk would be much greater. Surely murder and mayhem are more risky than the second-hand smoke I’m exposed to watching classic movies.
Some studies suggest that I can reduce the risks of sitting by standing. I’d gladly try it if other studies didn’t suggest that prolonged standing could also shorten my life. The solution to the dilemma, media reports indicate, is balance. Maybe so, but I’m better at keeping my balance sitting than standing. I’ve never fallen down sitting. I can’t say the same for standing.
I’ve never fallen down lying, either. Like prolonged sitting, lengthy lying is fraught with inactivity, the suggested root of the risk. When I learned this, I thought that my chronic insomnia, which keeps me active much of the night, might counteract my prolonged sitting, which keeps me inactive much of the day. Alas, I thought wrong, as still other studies suggest that lack of sleep may likewise shorten my life.
I’m beginning to wonder whether there is anything that doesn’t. Why, activity itself can be life threatening. Even a cursory review of news headlines reveals that it’s more dangerous than inactivity. Living, it seems, increases the risk of dying.
Nevertheless, the stories about risks to health and life don’t depress me. They don’t even impress me. With apologies to Alfred Tennyson, I believe that ‘Tis better to have lived and died than never to have lived at all. I wonder whether the media believe it.
What does concern me is the risk that research into sitting may pose for some of the songs I enjoy. I hope our social guardians don’t look askance at musical standards like “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)”. Social guardians are expert at marginalizing words they think aren’t good for us. This especially worries me. I don’t ever want to hear “I’m Gonna Jump Right Up and Write Myself a Letter” or “Don’t Do Push-Ups Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me).
If the risks of inactivity depress you, try walking. It’s the most risk-free activity I know. True, you can trip and fall and outdoors you can encounter pollution, extreme weather, unruly drivers, vicious assailants and distracted smartphone users. But walking can improve your balance. Mine, too. Oh, yes, and it can also increase your heart and lung fitness, strengthen your bones and tone up your joints and muscles, among other death defying positives.
So to avoid prolonged sitting or standing in the office, don’t settle for an ordinary height-adjustable desk that enables you to alternate between the two. Demand one with omni-directional wheels so you can walk while you work. To avoid prolonged inactivity in the car, raise the roof and install a treadmill so you can walk while you drive.
Walking while driving may be the first step to ditching the car and walking instead of driving. As I’ve never had a car to ditch, walking has been my chief mode of locomotion since I took my first step. By chance, and more recently by design, I’ve chosen homes within walking distance of essential services or selected essential services within walking distance of my homes.
Few homes, I realize, are as ideally placed as mine. Most cities cater to drivers over walkers. The historic city of Venice is a notable exception. As it bans cars from streets and alleys, the only way to get around is on foot or by boat. If you’re able to, there’s no excuse for not walking in Venice and fewer excuses than elsewhere for prolonged sitting.
Apparently, many cities don’t see the merits of pedestrian friendly Venice. They’re not only pedestrian unfriendly. They’re pedestrian shortsighted and Venetian blind. Well, I’m not. I can see right through them.