The latest advice from New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds caught my attention, as I’m among the millions of Americans who spend much of the working day sitting at my desk: In her book The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer, Reynolds says we don’t need to run marathons or measure our peak oxygen uptake to achieve better health, but we’re in trouble if we don’t move or stand for at least two minutes every 20 minutes while desk-bound.
“Sitting for long periods of time – when you don’t stand up, don’t move at all – tends to cause changes physiologically within your muscles,” Reynolds said on the WHYY radio program Fresh Air. “You stop breaking up fat in your bloodstream, you start getting accumulations of fat…in your liver, your heart and your brain. You get sleepy. You gain weight. You basically are much less healthy than if you’re moving.”
Fat in my brain? No thanks. I like Reynolds’ premise that exercise doesn’t have to hurt, involve expensive equipment or be ultra-strenuous; rather, she emphasizes regular movement – including standing and walking – as key to achieving and maintaining good health.
Reynolds’ advice is timely given last week’s report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that even if skyrocketing rates of obesity level off, 42 percent of Americans will be obese and 11 percent will be severely obese by the year 2030. The Institute of Medicine responded with recommendations to counter this disturbing trend, including integrating physical activity every day in every way, making healthy foods and beverages available everywhere and expanding the role of health care providers, insurers and employers in obesity prevention.
Speaking of the latter, we DMU employees and students are fortunate to have a great wellness program and staff to help us keep moving. For example, a walk station recently was installed on the floor where my office is located that employees can use while we work on our laptops and phones. I’m not sure yet whether I can type and walk at the same time, but there’s no lack of compelling reasons to give it a try.