Columnist takes a stand to live longer (possibly)

By Troy Doetch

If you’re sitting down to read this, you’re going to die. I, on the other hand, am typing this standing up; therefore, I am going to live forever.

I don’t mean to alarm you, but it’s science. Cold, hard, paraphrased science.

In a storm of articles published since April, credible news outlets have been terrifying sitters with bold comparisons. Springfield’s State Journal-Register called sitting the new cholesterol; The New York Observer linked to business mogul Tim Sanders’ blog, “Sitting is the New Smoking;” and The New York Times ran illustrations by Anna Raff which compared a chair to a time bomb, a barbed wire fence and a gargantuan Venus flytrap.

Some, like the Journal-Register, alluded to an American Cancer Society study which said women who sat for more than six hours per day were 37 percent more likely to die than women who sat for less than three hours per day during the 13 years studied. Others, like The New York Times, cited an Australian survey that dropped this bomb: Every hour of TV you sit and watch after the age of 25 reduces your life by 22 minutes. Like any logical person would do, I vowed to stand for the rest of my life.

I perched my iPad precariously on my record player and locked my knees for a long night of studying. My lower back ached, my wrists went stiff and my heels fell asleep. Because the experience felt about as pleasant as running three miles while eating raw broccoli stems, I knew it must be healthy.

My standing resolution held firm until the next day, when I realized that teachers frown upon standing during their lectures — unless of course it’s on your desk and you’re reciting Whitman’s, “O Captain! My Captain!”

Convinced the university was out to kill me, I walked to Anderson Hall to speak with physical education instructor Gail Koehling. She offered me a seat, and, like the protagonist of an anti-smoking PSA from the mid ’90s, I just said no. Koehling said my standing was making her feel awkward, peer-pressuring me to no avail. If I sat for that 15 minute interview, my life would be reduced by five and a half minutes, according to the Australians. I explained this to the seated Koehling.

“I don’t believe that because I think it should be about some type of activity, not just standing,” Koehling said. “It’s about what we’re doing by sitting all day at work, and we come home and we’re sitting all night in front of the television.”

Koehling advised a less intense plan: taking frequent breaks to stretch and walk rather than swearing off sitting entirely. She put a pedometer on me and explained something about getting unplanned physical activity throughout the day in addition to exercising and eating healthy. I was too busy thinking about how comfortable her swivel chair looked to catch any of it.