The Silicon Valley Voice

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Step Right Up!

Are you going to take this sitting down?

By “this,” I mean your job, and by “sitting down,” I mean that transformation you make every morning when the active, life-affirming person who marches in the front door at 9 morphs into the cranky blob of protoplasm who staggers out at 5.

The villain in the piece? Your desk chair. You may have felt like you had joined an elite society when you were given a snazzy Aeron chair on which to rest your sorry butt, but what you didn’t realize is that you were issued a deadly weapon.

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Or so says Sumathi Reddy in a recent “Your Health” column in The Wall Street Journal.

“Working out at the gym may not be enough to stay fit if you spend much of the rest of the day sitting down,” writes Reddy. “Americans are more sedentary than ever, government surveys show. That is a problem even among people who exercise regularly.”

This is alarming news. If the local gym monkeys who spend hours a day lifting weights cannot counteract the gravitation pull of their office chairs, what chance is there for someone like you — a person whose fitness program is limited to exercising your elbow as you hammer down Jell-o shots at the Kit Kat Klub.

Which brings us to issue of steps.

Now, I am not talking about the dance steps you don’t know how to do — though your electric slide at the Christmas party is still a memory emblazoned into the frontal lobe of all who attended — but simply the steps that you take to get from here to there. Or should I say — don’t take.

“Americans on average take 5,117 steps per day, according to a 2010 study published in the journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. A good daily goal, by contrast, is 10,000 steps, according to the American Heart Association.”

Since you are a good deal lazier than the average American citizen, or even the average American tabby, it is likely that your step count is well below the minimum daily requirement. As result, you are not enjoying the harvest of benefits gained by stepping up, including “modest weight loss” and “improved glucose tolerance.” And since you are the sort of person who orders your burgers with extra sauce, extra cheese and extra glucose, this could be a problem.

The solution is simple — you have to step out. But don’t think a brisk circumnavigation of the copying machine is going to make a diff. Walking a mile roughly equals 2,000 steps. So, if you are going to walk a mile in the shoes of a healthy person, you need to go five miles a day.

Sound challenging? Not at all. Instead of going to the supply closet for paper clips, head out the front door and keep walking until you’ve put 2.5 miles between you and your evil desk chair. Then all you have to do is turn around and come back. (So what if they have to bring you back on a stretcher? As soon as the paramedics get your heart started again, you can head out for rubber bands.)

While walking is an obvious solution for the sedentary set, you do have fitness options. According to Gabriel Koepp of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, “other things can include washing the dishes, making bread dough by hand rather than using a mixer and even chewing gum.”

No way we’re going get you to give up that mixer when making bread dough, but you could start chewing gum. Just don’t try to chew gum and walk at the same time. That’s way above your pay grade.

Another good way to step up your step count comes from Dr. David Bassett Jr. of the University of Tennessee. A doctoral student in Dr. Basset’s department increased the steps taken by a group of couch potatoes by having them stand up and march in place in front of the TV during commercial breaks. You probably don’t have commercial breaks at work, but you could stand up and start marching in place during the dull spots in staff meetings. It’s a good way to get your blood flowing and the boss’s blood boiling.

A final idea comes from Eric Lent of Atlanta, who increases his steppage by “parking in the farthest stop from the entrance at work.”

Brilliant idea! And take it from me, there are some simply wonderful parking places in Buenos Aires.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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