Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Make sure you're sitting when you read this
THE bum, suggested Samuel Johnson in the 18th century, is an excellent place on which to sit. Had he lived in the 21st century, as we must, he might have said something completely different, because he was a wise and clever man and certainly a man of his times.
Johnson during his life drank too much ale, ate too much good food, enjoyed the company of his friends at all hours too much and probably sat on his bum too much -- in short, he was the antithesis of a 21st century blue-nosed health nut's credo, although, to his credit, he did go on long walks.
But those were the ways of those times for those who could afford them. Today we think we know better than that, and today Johnson might not suggest that the bum is an excellent place on which to sit. He might say instead, in the spirit of healthy and heartless living, that everyone should get off their bums before they die from sitting down too long, although he did live to be 75 in an age when life expectancy was about 35 to 40 years.
A recent study asserts that sitting too much can be fatal, or at least it can increase your risk of dying in the near future by as much as 40 per cent.
Watching the CBC news on television for two hours a day, for example, will not only dull your mind, it can actually kill you, according to research published this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a not particularly popular -- think colonoscopy -- but academically well-respected scientific journal.
The researchers found people who sit for 11 hours a day -- at work and at home, and that's probably most of us -- have a much higher risk of dying in three years than those sit for only four hours a day, although what three years they're talking about is kind of hard to figure out, since most of our kids have been sitting for at least 11 hours a day since they were old enough to go to school and turn on the TV.
But that TV is another trouble. If you watch TV for two hours a day or more, say the researchers, you double your risk of having a heart attack. Desperate Housewives apparently should more accurately be called Dangerous Housewives and marathon screenings of episodes of Third Rock from the Sun are, perhaps, truly part of an alien plot to destroy humanity.
The 21st century embraces an old adage -- life is real and life is earnest and the grave is not its goal. In fact, the grave is to be avoided at all costs, even if you don't get much pleasure from the kind of life you are living to avoid it. You can't drink ale, you can't eat good food, you can't even sit around with your wife or your friends watching a Jets game on TV because those games last way longer than two hours. I think we are allowed to jog.
In the 19th century, William Wordsworth wrote that "the world is too much with us." If he were writing today, he might turn that around and say that we are too much with the world. Sam Johnson, come to think of it, would almost certainly have agreed.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 14, 2012 J2
(1 of 23 articles for this week)