For some reason the media are re-publicizing the health dangers of sitting for long periods of time. The list I heard on Live with Kelly and Michael had about ten items on it. The ones that stood out were back pains, circulatory problems (including blood clots) and constipation. In my experience, constipation and back pain usually come in tandem, so I’m note sure they should be counted as separate dangers.
In any case, this itemization of negatives completely missed the positives. As a retiree who spends more and more time sitting down, I’m compelled to put forth the contrarian argument. Staying in one place is good for your health.
Let’s face it. The older we get, the harder it is to remember whether we’re coming or going. I think it has something to do with blood rushing downstream when we stand up, leaving less of it to fuel our brain cells. Retirees’ gray matter needs more oxygen, not less, so standing and walking become a detriment to our mental health.
If we’re lucky enough to figure out where we’re headed, there’s a good chance we won’t remember why it was we went there once we arrive. That’s due in part to the “event boundary” factor, which should be familiar to those who read my post: “Thresholds, Stairs and Memory Loss”.
A logical extension of all of this is that when we’re done with whatever, we can’t remember where we’re supposed to go back to, either. You don’t need fully-oxygenated gray matter to see where I’m headed (narratively, not physically; I’m sitting down). There are clear benefits to plopping your fanny in a comfortable chair for hours at a time.
The most obvious one is that you never have to wonder if you’re coming or going, or where to or from, because you’re already there. The net result is less stress, lower blood pressure and higher self esteem. All beneficial to your physical and mental health, no matter what your age.
You can enhance the benefits with a little pre-planning. Buy a convenient tote or two—the kind that handymen and gardening hobbyists carry around. Make a list of the items you use regularly: pens, scratch pads, reading glasses, lip balm, tissues, coffee mugs—you get the idea. Fasten the list securely to the side of the tote, so you won’t have to hunt for it every day.
When you’re ready to settle in, grab the tote and look at your list. Fill the container with everything you might want to use that day. By the way, if one of the things on the list is “book I’m reading,” be sure to leave a blank line where you can pencil in the title of the book and where you set it down last. You don’t want to waste valuable sitting time trying to remember what you’re reading, or running around the house looking for it.
If you want to make this routine truly effective, install one of those new fangled pod machines and a supply of bottled water close to your nest. You’ll have fresh coffee or tea at your fingertips.
My final hint for success: get a fat, washable marker and draw a circle around your chair to delineate the area that’s within arm’s length. Position your tote, your Keurig-wannabe, your book(s), craft supplies, whatever, within the circle. You’ll be guaranteed to be able to reach everything without getting up off your ever-widening butt. Wider butts improve sitting stability, by the way.
The circle has an extra advantage. Anyone who is foolish enough to disturb you will know to stay beyond the marker line. Otherwise, you’ll be able to smack them with the fly swatter in your tote, without having to lift an inch off your chair.
So you see, staying put can offer health advantages to your friends and family, too. For inquiring minds that want to know, I’m setting up my chair area next to my wine rack. I have an easy-to-use corkscrew and a box of very long straws in my tote.