Sitting? Death. Get up. Neal Stephenson says so.

“I have broken a ten year old’s spirit.  Time to reward myself with a fruit on the bottom yogurt.  Plain, plain, plain, plain . . . ooh, fruit.” – The Simpsons

DSC02037

Not where Soviet goatherders live.

I remember watching a news program when I was quite young and staying over at my grandparents.  A reporter had been dispatched to some part of the Soviet Union to interview a lot of old people.  The story showed a bunch of goat herders who lived in stone and mud houses in some remote mountain valley.  Wonderful television, right?  Well, the kicker was all of these old people lived to their nineties, but still claimed that they could beat the Nigerian cross-country ski team in the Battle of the Network Stars®.  Or maybe it was the Gong Show™?

The reporter earnestly asked a bunch of questions through interpreters about Soviet lifestyles.  We were watching on 27” televisions that seemed normal in size then, but absurdly small today.  Thankfully, they weighed about 1000 pounds each (the television, not the Soviets).  Back then four or five of these televisions cost about as much as a brand new Camaro®, which is the same thing as a new television costing over $6,000 now.  Or a new Camaro© costing about $4,500.  Now.  Don’t know about you, but I’d love to trade five televisions for a brand new Camaro™.

Turned out that goat herders spend their days herding goats.  And walking up and down steep hills to carry water back up to their mud and stone huts.  And chasing goats.  And eating yogurt.  And doing whatever else it is that causes them to lose their teeth and look like shriveled raisin-people.  Heck, the Soviets never learned about sunscreen and I bet their version of dentistry involved a steam engine and a comical series of gears in some fashion – for all I know the raisin-people were twenty three years old.  And they had zero televisions or Camaros®.  Did I mention that they discussed eating only yogurt?

Soon after this story hit, yogurt became available in the local supermarket.  I don’t think this is a coincidence.  I’m guessing that the American consensus was that we could eat our way skinny using yogurt.  And the other bet was that you could live to be as old and leathery as those Soviets.

First Yogurt Purchase on Wilder Mountain by Ma Wilder:

Young John Wilder:  “Ummm, gross.  It looks like snot.”

Ma Wilder:  “It’s good for you.  It has bacteria.”

Young John Wilder:  “SUPER gross!  Bacteria?”

Ma Wilder, flustered:  “These are supposed to be good for you, young comrade!”

But now I’m pretty sure that what kept those goat herders living their long stone and mud hut lives wasn’t yogurt, but was:

  • No access to Ding Dongs®, Twinkies©, or Fruit Pies™, and
  • Having to walk up and down hundreds of feet on that steep, steep mountain every single day of their lives to chase their goats and get their water, and,
  • Great Soviet technology, which was far better than American technology – Americans have car/truck combination that is El Camino? Soviets have tank/car/jet combination called El Gorbacar!  Runs on kerosene and weighs 124,000 pounds.

Okay, my bet it was the low carbs and all the strenuous exercise and not so much on the El Gorbacar.  Same thing with the native Alaskan population – native Alaskans were lean, mean polar bear killing machines before Coca-Cola®, Ho-Hos™ and Doritos©.  After Ruffles®, Wonder Bread™ and mechanized transportation?  Skyrocketing heart disease.

I imagine those ex-Soviets all weigh 450 pounds now and sit around playing GoatHerder3™ on Playstation©.  But they have awesome non-leathery complexions from living in Mom’s basement.

And, all the latest data keeps proving my supposition:  moving around a lot keeps you alive longer.  This is pretty much the same story as 2016.  And 2015.  And every year since 1936, which was the last year that medical science was concerned that vigorous activity would disturb the bodily humours which could only be dispelled by large amounts of opium, radium, and linoleum.

The story is evolving.  Even if you’re fit in all other ways, for the last several years it’s been reported that the data now appears to say that if you sit for long periods of time?  You’re going to die.

Well, die sooner.  We’re all gonna die.  It’s all a matter of if you get to see “Game of Thrones” end, right?  Who needs to see 2019?

The markers appear to say that if you rest for longer than twelve and a half hours per day, and more than 10 minutes per session . . . you’re going to die sooner.

And the reasons?  All of the reasons:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Backaches

Okay, backaches are generally not fatal.  But the rest of them certainly can be.

And, like I mentioned before, absolutely zero of these stories are new – it seems to be a story that the media trots out every September and March.  It might have something to do with when new journalists emerge from their cocoons after their larval stage as sons and daughters of investment bankers who can afford surgery to make them attractive.  My prediction?  Pumpkin-spice latte stories in our near future as the journalists develop into their final glorious form:  commentators.  Ahh, the beauty of the circle of life, from weathergirl to Cokie Roberts.

But I digress.  Actually, the first time I recall reading about the dangers of sitting was around 2000.  Neal Stephenson, one of my favorite authors, wrote about it in an essay in 2012 called . . . “Arsebestos.”

Mr. Stephenson compares sitting to asbestos, since both lead to early death, hence . . . Arsebestos.  He made the point that future employees will be able to sue based on being required to sit all the time at work.  Basis of the case?

Butt brutality?  Heine horrors?

But one of the reasons I love Mr. Stephenson is that he’s got skin in the game.  He put his lifestyle where his mouth is:  he started working on a treadmill desk, which is a big deal, as a loveseat addicted author with a glass of pinot noir in his hand can attest.

Mr. Stephenson’s results are well documented here at this (LINK) of the 416 days he spent working on a treadmill desk at the time he wrote the article.  He did run into some problems with going too slow – the pace wasn’t natural and he lurched from side to side.  When he pushed his speed back up to 1.8 miles per hour, all of the physical problems associated with the treadmill dropped away.

So, the short message of this post?

Get up and move.  Now.  Dance like you’re a crazy fool!  It will save your life.

Unless you’re running a crane at a construction site.  And then?  For heaven’s sake sit down and do your job!  You could kill someone . . . .

Author: John

Nobel-Prize Winning, MacArthur Genius Grant Near Recipient writing to you regularly about Fitness, Wealth, and Wisdom - How to be happy and how to be healthy. Oh, and rich.

The food fight is ON! Comments are OPEN!