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Hi Wendy!

Long response below, but the short answer: Yes, I move much more now than before, and it’s half technology and half just being mindful of my body.

Okay, so I want to back up and give slightly more color on “sitting is the new smoking.” I am not a doctor, but I did sit around (ahem) and read a bunch of recent studies (mostly meta-studies, collecting and re-examining results of other studies) regarding correlations between sitting and all kinds of negative health effects (cancer, mortality in general, you name it). I also interviewed a few doctors in an attempt to understand what really happens when we are sedentary for a long time. I think that “new smoking” phrase is somewhat alarmist (I’m not sure I see evidence that sitting is as harmful as smoking), but it does seem to be correct enough to be useful.

I think the most important thing I can say is this: From my reading of the studies, I see lots of correlation between long periods of being sedentary and specific kinds of cancer…BUT I have not seen any data that seems directly causal. What I mean by that is that there is definitely a link, but there’s a chicken/egg problem. Do people who sit get cancer because they sit around a lot? Are they sitting around a lot because they get cancer? Is there some third factor that’s not accounted for in the study that’s actually to blame? (In one notable case, there clearly was: I read one study in which the authors found a link between sitting and lung cancer. They wrote in their conclusion that they believed this might be because there is a correlation between sitting and smoking, and therefore it was likely the smoking was really the culprit. I think they lacked the data to know, in that case.) But anyway, you get the point. There is still lots of work to be done on the science here, but I didn’t feel like waiting for that before getting active.

Talking to doctors, I got the lowdown on what happens when a human is sedentary for an extended period (say, 45 minutes+). My not-doctor way to understand that is, “Your body goes into Power Reserve mode.” There’s a bunch of stuff regarding hormones that demonstrates specifically what happens and why, but that’s how I boiled it down internally. Basically, you kinda wind down and metabolism changes in notable (and measurable) ways.

OKAY, so to answer your question: I now wear a fitness tracking watch that reminds me to stand/move around for at least a few minutes every hour. It is not customizable. I wish it were (if it were, I would probably make it remind me every 45 minutes rather than every 60, and I would consider making it keep reminding me even after I’ve “won the day” with 12 standing-at-some-point hours). But this is the last ditch effort thing, in the event I get wrapped up in some kind of desk work.

The other major thing I’ve changed is building in some standing. Whenever I reasonably can, I move my computer (a laptop, thankfully) to a standing desk and just spend a while working while standing and kinda wandering around. I’m fortunate that my work space allows this. I try to be mindful of which work activities I can do while moving around, and which things truly require me to be seated for a stretch. (Many do require me to be seated…but I can at least break up those periods.)

Oh yeah, and I try to take “micro walks” when I think of them. Even if it’s just around the block five times, I find that gives me some space to feel refreshed, and it’s also a nice stretch of thinking time.

Hope this is useful! -Chris

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