Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Get off that chair

How great it is to come home from a long day at the office and drop into your favourite chair. Soon you reach for that revered remote and settle down for an entertaining evening of TV-watching.

Now, here they come crashing in on you, friends and foes, this army of researchers, physicians and scientists with their familiar whip, crying out: “No, no, no, get off that chair, turn off your TV; you are killing yourself”. “What?” you ask: “I did not know that”. You have already given up your cherished cigarette, your tasty piece of red meat, and you joined the gym, so why are those health experts sounding their dim and perilous message again?

A recent study by Harvard researchers have decreed that TV-watching may bring on a series of diseases such as obesity, high blood-pressure, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases that will eventually kill you.

How can an innocent activity bring on such ominous consequences? As little as two hours of TV-watching raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes by 20 per cent and cardio-vascular diseases by 15 per cent. More than three hours and you up your risk of dying from any disease. That is the conclusion of the study conducted by Dr Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Europeans spend 40 per cent of their time watching TV, Australians 50 per cent, and in our neck of the woods, what with all the riots and violence in the streets, we spend even more time TV-watching.

Their message is loud and clear: “Cutting back on TV-watching can significantly reduce the risk of premature mortality”. In other words, sitting is the new smoking, and your chair is the new cigarette. Now that bit of news can cure us of TV altogether, but will it? A great number of us quit smoking, yet a great number still do, despite the unquestionable evidence that cigarettes kill.

There is something half-comic, half-tragic in the concept of giving up all that is pleasurable in life in order to live. Are we therefore never to give in to our fancies and live a tortured life, deprived of all our true desires? Our first gift is Life and our second gift is Health. It would be sheer madness to underrate the labour of the scientists who make us feel silly and childish by hugging our private vices and clinging to our questionable pursuits, but we do. We are often unable to make the right judgements to preserve our two gifts, for what is life without health?

We may resent those myriad studies, and those experts who come lecturing us on how best to live our lives, but begrudgingly we give up our gooey desserts, our creamy casseroles and our juicy steaks, and now our favourite TV shows, because we are all interested in longevity.

Professor Adrian Bauman of the University of Sydney claims that: “sitting may have more to do with obesity than lack of physical activity.” Why? Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic explains: “It is almost like sort of owning a really cool sports car and letting it idle all day.” The engine gets choked up. That is what happens to our bodies. The body as we know it is not built to sit all day. As we sit we are essentially switching off our fat-burning engines, concludes the Mayo Clinic study.

Every hour of seated TV- watching cuts 22 minutes from our life-span, according to Bauman. Smokers shorten their lives by about 11 minutes per cigarette. It is an 18 per cent increase in the risk of dying.  f you are a smoker and a TV addict, God bless you.

Such ominous warnings will deprive us of viewing our favourite black and white movie, or watching a heated political debate, but as we cry foul we have to choose between life and death.

What are we to do? Watch TV standing? Stand by our desks at the office? Go for a run perhaps? Yes, that is the answer. No, say the scientists that will not cut it. Hit the gym for an hour or so? The answer is still, No! It is about that energy expenditure throughout the day and not sharp bursts of exercise. We are meant to move and keep moving.

Early man never stopped moving — climbing trees, chasing animals in search of food. What have we achieved in our hi-tech civilisation? Screens and more screens! We are glued to our TVs, lap-tops and smart-phones gazing at screens. All day we are engaged in e-mailing, texting, tweeting, face-book watching or playing video-games, and the consequences are robbing us, especially our youth of healthy bodies to match those healthy minds.

There are some solutions. We can reduce that total time of sitting by getting up every hour and moving about, stretching, bending, turning. 

Standing uses more muscles and burns more calories. Read your book or newspaper while standing thus reducing your risk of a long list of diseases including muscle-atrophy, deep-vein thrombosis, anxiety, depression, diabetes, colon cancer, high-blood pressure, obesity, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, kidney-stones, not to mention, preserving the functions of your immune system. Now that is enough to make you jump off that chair, and keep moving.

If you have health the rest is easy. Thank God for his blessing and continue to read your paper while standing.

Life’s not just being alive, but being well.

Martial (AD c.40-c.104)

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