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The Desk Chair of Death

When it comes to getting healthy, there’s only one exercise that works for me. The instant I see a copy of “Men’s Health,” I start to run. It’s true! Avoiding this evil publication keeps me fit. I simply cannot believe it’s not against the law to display this foul magazine at the checkout stand. It forces you to look at some grinning baboon with six-pack abs, while your six packs of Ben & Jerry’s go by on the conveyor belt.

Whether it’s “Men’s Health” or “Women’s Health,” what scares people like thee and me are the articles inside the intimidating cover. We suspect that they are all about what we laughingly call our lifestyle and how it’s sending us to an early grave.

And we are right! In a recent Men’s Health article, reporter Maria Masters proves that if there’s anything more dangerous than skydiving without a parachute or skin-diving without scuba gear, it’s peacefully sitting at your desk without a thought on your mind.

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“New evidence suggests,” writes Masters, “that the more hours a day you sit, the greater your likelihood of dying an earlier death regardless of how much you exercise or how lean you are. That’s right: Even a sculpted six-pack can’t protect you from your chair.”

So, if you thought your boss was trying to kill you, you’re right. Too cheap to hire Mafia hit men, management is attempting to cancel your ticket by providing comfy, cozy Aeron chairs. It’s a lose-lose situation. If you don’t spend 12 hours a day at your desk, you lose your job. If you do, you lose your life.

Even if you don’t die alone in your cube with nothing to comfort you but your three-star score on Angry Birds, sitting too much can produce a variety of aches and pains. “It’s not just your heart that’s at risk from too much sitting,” Masters reports. “Your hips, spine and shoulders could also suffer.”

The damage can be permanent. If you’re one of those weirdoes with actual muscles, you should know they’re covered by a tough, connective tissue called “fascia.” This fascia stuff tends to “set” in the positions your muscles are in most often. This explains the cringing, submissive posture displayed by the higher-ups on the corporate food chain. They’re not just toadies. They’ve been sitting down and bending over so long that their bodies have been permanently frozen into subservience.

Even wackos who actually exercise are not immune from the office chair death spiral. Masters reports on a study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington that showed “the people who sat for almost the entire day were 54 percent more likely to end up clutching their chests than those who sat for almost none of the time. That’s no surprise, of course, except that it didn’t matter how much the sitters weighed or how often they exercised.”

In a way, this is good news. Even though you’ve allowed yourself to become a lazy, obese blob of protoplasm that can barely waddle to the bar at 5 p.m., you’re no worse off than the idiot that bicycles to the gym every morning at 5 a.m.

If you think that being an Olympic sitter will at least produce awesome butt muscles, think again. Your butt muscles, or glutes, are your body’s largest muscle group, as a peek behind you in the mirror will confirm. But butt muscles don’t have a good memory, so sitting too long can produce “gluteal amnesia.” That makes your glutes “a powerful furnace for fat — a furnace that’s probably been switched off if you spend most of the day on your duff.”

So, what’s the remedy?

If you want a long life, regularly get off your glutes and take a brisk walk. The break room makes an excellent destination, since you can reward yourself for the effort with a package of Twinkies. You could also stand at your desk, which may make it difficult to use your computer, but your boss will be thrilled when she walks by and finds you already on your feet and saluting. The article also prescribes “Judo Push-Ups” and “Sprinter Sit-Ups” in a 15-minute routine you can do in your cube. This could be immediately followed by “Combat Chest-Pains” and “Superhero Ride to the Emergency Room,” so watch it.

Personally, I think the best solution is to get out of your chair and get down on the floor. Sitting up all day will kill you, but lying down all day is heaven.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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